Tips & Ideas

Check out some ideas for enjoying music with your child!

Exploring Instruments!

posted Feb 8, 2018, 1:41 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood

When Ayanna, Wardell and I were recently playing a show at The Avalon Theatre, we had some young friends who loved coming up close before and after the show to check out the instruments! At that venue we are right on the floor in front of the audience (in front of the gorgeous red curtain you see in the photo to the left), so we're right at kid-level.

One of the advantages of seeing live music is that it becomes a beautiful sensory experience for your kids. They feel the sound vibrations directly while they see the instruments being played, and sometimes they can even explore the instruments more closely.  It's always important to ask first, but many musicians are happy to let a curious child tap a drum, explore a percussion instrument or perhaps even touch a guitar!  Ayanna had claves (or rhythm sticks), a tambourine, a double caxixi (or woven basket maraca, this one from Ghana in West Africa), plus her beautiful djembe drum.

There's nothing like seeing a child light up with joy as they experience playing a new instrument! If you come to a Marsha and the Positrons show, you can always ask us if it's OK to check out our instruments after the show.  Our next show is at Jammin Java on Saturday, February 17th at 10:30AM! We'd love to see you there!!

Fall Fun

posted Nov 10, 2015, 3:51 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood   [ updated Nov 10, 2015, 4:56 PM ]

At a recent Circle Time at the Takoma Park Library our theme was fall.  I brought in a couple of songs from other sources that I promised to post for you so you can sing them again at home.  The first is a wonderful song by Chicago performer and teacher, Susan Salidor, called "Hey Little Leaf" which is a fun song to sing and act out with your little ones. Click on the song title to go directly to the video on Susan's website. Click on Susan's name to go to her site where you can explore, check out her other videos, and learn more about her wonderful music.

The other song about the leaves that we enjoyed was called "Down, Down" from Musikgarten's 'Cycle of Seasons' curriculum.  The words are:

    Down, down, down, down
    Leaves fall gently down to the ground.
    Whirling, twirling round and round, 
    Falling softly down to the ground.

When you sing it, stretch up high and wave your arms side to side slowly as you as you sing the first two lines and let your hands be the leaves falling down to the ground.  Then reach up again and slowly twirl around as you mimic the leaves falling to the ground or twirl your arms/hands if you prefer that to turning your whole body. Repeat as many times as you like!  If you weren't there in person or don't remember the tune, make up you own tune. I hope you enjoy the fall leaves and songs!

Choo Choo Train Chant

posted Oct 15, 2014, 1:23 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood

At a recent circle time at the Takoma Park library where we were exploring a transportation theme, I taught this fun chant that you can also try at home!

Choo Choo Train Chant (author unknown, from Musikgarten "Family Music for Babies")

This is a choo-choo train,
Chugging down the track.
Now it's going forward,
Now it's going back.
Now the bell is ringing -- 
ding, ding, ding, ding ding!
Now the whistle blows -- toot-toot!
What a lot of noise it makes everywhere it goes!
Chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga, Chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga...

Suggestions for what to do:
* Repeat the rhyme as many times as you like!
* Lean forward on "forward" and lean back on "back."
* Reach up and "ring the bell" with one hand. 
* Use the other hand to reach up "pull on the horn" to toot! 
* Try moving around in a circle or just traveling around following a leader.
* Talk about the person in front being the engine & the last person being the caboose to add a few more vocabulary words. 

Finish with:
Chugga-chugga, chugga-chugga -- choo, choo!

Join in the Fun!

posted Sep 5, 2013, 10:39 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood

When you go to a music show or happen upon some live music in the street, what do you do?  Do you just stand and listen or do you dance and let yourself be a part of the fun? I hope you bounce your baby, grab your toddlers hands to dance, and even groove with your big kids. Maybe you bob your head and clap along.  Perfect. Why not sing along if you know the words -- even just the chorus or a few la-la-la's?  There's no time like the present to help your kids feel comfortable enjoying music.  The little ones learn coordination and timing while learning to keep the beat.  You can work on numbers and counting if you like.  It's a great way to practice gross motor skills like balance, too.  There's nothing like seeing the smiles on your children's faces.  It'll help a bad mood to pass, get some energy out and leave you feeling good. Plus it's infectious, so you might look to the side and see others who were still when you arrived have gotten the courage or the idea to dance from you, too.  Spread a little happiness and join in the fun!

Music As A Toddler Teaching Tool

posted Apr 4, 2013, 10:19 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood

    So, it's been a little while since I've posted, being busy with my now almost 1 1/2 year old & my two elementary aged kids, and with my record, performing, and all manner of other things!  Despite that, I wanted to share a few thoughts about music and toddlers.
    Once babies hit a year and become mobile, we often see a burst of language.  Since we want to encourage that language growth as much as possible, it's helpful to use music as a teaching tool.  Going beyond the ABC's and Old McDonald, there are a wealth of classic songs and rhymes that are great for this.  We can use these wonderful songs to teach all manner of things, from motor skills, to counting, to vocabulary for directions in space, and much more.  The more we can add a physical element and involve the little one in bringing the song to life, the more they get out of it.
    For example, I've been singing "The Wheels on the Bus" with my litle guy from the early days.  When he was a couple of months old, I would prop him on my legs facing me and roll his hands for the wheels, swish his arms for the wipers, open and close his arms for the doors, lift him up and down for the people and so on.  I'd also move his legs in a bicycle motion for the wheels and do all those same movements with his legs.  He loved the movement and I would smile and look right in his eyes while I sang, so it was a chance to connect in so many ways.  At some point a couple of months ago, I was singing the song during a diaper change and he started rolling his own hands!  It was unexpected, since it had been a little while since I'd sung that song, and I hadn't prompted him by doing the movements for him recently, and it's a fairly complicated movement for a 16-month old.  The big smile on his face and look of pride was just so fun.  He showed me that he remembered the song, the movement, and that he could do it all by himself -- wow!  The other thing that's important about a movement like that which we can't see, is that it requires both hemispheres of the brain to communicate and coordinate with each other.  The former neuroscientist in me loves that, especially since actions that require that kind of communication and coordination are so very important for  language development.
    Did you know that the simple act of clapping our hands has the same kind of effect on the developing brain?  With a toddler, you can kick it up a notch clapping from side to side or over your head, or up and down.  Simple movements, but with big impact for your little one.
    We can spice up a simple, familiar, song like "Twinkle Twinkle" with movement.  Open and close your hands every time you sing "twinkle" with each syllable of the word. Move your hands from side to side while you open and close.  Wave your arms above your head from side to side for the "up above the world so high" line. Keep up that movement or put thumbs and forefingers together to make a diamond shape that you move from side to side for the next line.  Now a simple song has become more!
    I hope you'll use these examples as an inspiration to come up with movements that feel natural for you to go along with songs you already know.  If in doubt of what to do for a song, the old standby of clapping along, tapping the beat somewhere on the baby's body, or just dancing with your baby can make a huge impact.
    Happy singing!

Babies' Musical Delight

posted Feb 13, 2012, 9:34 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood   [ updated Apr 4, 2013, 9:30 PM ]

With a new baby at home again, I am reminded how much really young babies enjoy music.  I encourage all new parents to bring music into your baby's life from the beginning!

Babies love to hear voices, and in particular the sound of familiar voices.  The sound of mom's voice is particularly wonderful and welcome.  I know my baby came out familiar with my singing and guitar playing since I did quite a lot of it while he was in utero.  He would pause and listen to me singing when I played the first recordings from the studio clearly recognizing sounds he had heard from my belly.

Other familiar voices include dad, siblings, co-workers, and friends whom mom spent time conversing with during pregnancy.  Baby will of course enjoy new voices, too, and any caregiver will notice baby starting to recognize that new voice within a short while.  So, adoptive parents, grandparents, and nannies can get the same reaction once baby becomes familiar with their voices.
  • Sing, Sing, Sing:  Every diaper change is an opportunity to sing! (And lord knows we change enough diapers.)  It's a great distraction and a wonderful chance to make a repetitive task fun for both of you.
  • Dance Baby:  Gently dance your baby's legs and arms and even whole body once he or she is strong enough to hold up his or her head.  You're helping baby to feel the rhythm and passively exercising baby's limbs.  Both super important for development!  Try tapping the beat gently as well -- it's all good for reinforcing recognition of rhythm.
  • Dance Yourself with Baby:  While you're holding baby securely, bounce, sway and move to music you enjoy listening to -- whatever the genre.  Baby will feel the beat through you and experience the movement through space.  Again, wonderful experience for that developing brain.

My go-to songs are the ABC song and Old MacDonald. You never forget your ABC's and can use that to stall while you think of something else to sing!  Old MacDonald has endless possibilities, so you can keep it going as long as you like.  If you don't know the sound the animal makes with its voice, you can always go with a sound it makes with its body, or a physical attribute.  (A butterfly can flap, flap; a rabbit can hop, hop.)  You can challenge your partner or kids and alternate choosing the next animal.  (A great way to pass time on car trips or to distract a fussy baby!)

OK, so go sing with your baby already!

Some Favorite Musical Storybooks

posted Feb 21, 2011, 8:20 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood

We recently moved, and in the process of packing up our household and organizing unpacked items I had a chance to collect together some of the picture books with musical themes.  There are so many lovely books out there with musical themes that I thought I'd share some of the ones that we've found with you.  Of the ones we have, I must say, the one that has been read aloud the most in our house is "Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin"  which was one of my kids favorite bedtime stories for a stretch (and is quite fun to read aloud repeatedly, I might add).  It's a delightful rhyming story that features many of the instruments in an orchestra, the names of groups of instruments (such as duo, trio, quartet, etc.), as well as the names of families of instruments (reeds, strings, brasses).

Another of our favorites from this group is "This Jazz Man" which is best when you say aloud the sound effects that go along with each jazz man that is introduced in the story -- for example, "Beee-diddly-doo-ah! Dooo-aaaaah!"  With younger children, a fun game is to practice saying these aloud together or repeating with a call-and-response between the kids and the reader!  Another cool feature of this book is that it has bios of some famous jazz musicians at the back of the book.  This gives the book another life when the children are old enough to read the book to themselves or have the attention span to process the deeper biographical info as it's read to them.  

Ideally I will compile & post this list along with descriptions/reviews for each book on my Additional Info page.  Until then, no doubt you can find reviews of all these books online somewhere if you're interested in knowing more.  If you have a favorite book that you'd like me to add to the list, please email the title and author (as well as a review if you wish).  I hope you have a chance to explore some of these fun books either at your local library or bookstore.  Without further ado, here's the list (in no particular order).  Happy reading!

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt
The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin
The Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort
Big Bird Plays the Violin by Deborah Hautzig
Hip Cat by Jonathan London
Little Chopin by Michal Rusinek
Theo and the Blue Note by Peter Kuper

Musical Books: Improvisation

posted Aug 23, 2010, 7:48 AM by Marsha Goodman-Wood   [ updated Aug 23, 2010, 7:53 PM ]

We enjoy reading books aloud in our house, and there are so many great books either about music, with musical themes, or with songs in them.  The ones that have songs in them -- by that I mean just words with a description telling you that it's a song -- are great opportunities for improvisation for you and for your children.  More than that, it's a great way to have fun with music and reading while you bond with your child.  This summer, we read aloud The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne.  Pooh loves to make up songs.  Right off the bat in Chapter 1 of Winnie-the-Pooh, we see, " he climbed, he sang a little song to himself.  It went like this."  When you get to this juncture, you've got a choice and an opportunity.  You can either just read the poetry of the lyrics or try to make up a tune to go along with the words.

In the Frances series by Russell Hoban, the lead character Frances often expresses herself in song, too.  Frances' songs display her feelings.  In A Bargain for Frances, when she's on her way to Thelma's house to have a tea party she shows her excitement about the adventures ahead.  When she's on her way home to play with her newly traded tea set, she's expressing her satisfaction with the exchange.  Both songs really help to bring home the disappointment she feels when she learns that her friend Thelma hasn't been truthful with her.  Sometimes the songs show more complex emotions, too, such as in Best Friends for Frances, where she's singing of the adventure she and her sister, Gloria, will have.  She uses the song to sing happily of their plans as well as to get back a bit at her friend Albert, who wouldn't let her play baseball earlier with his boy friends. She is able to subtly display her anger at the injustice in a way that invites the opportunity for Albert to understand her feelings and consequently apologize.  Surely we can all learn a lot from Frances!  As you read these stories, the songs really make the characters and the situations come alive.

As I see it, when you make up a tune and give life to the words, you're demonstrating how to improvise and helping to open a new door for creative expression.  Just by making an effort to create a tune, you're showing your children how you think on your feet, and by extension how they can think on their feet.  It doesn't matter if the tune isn't consistent throughout the song or doesn't always resolve harmoniously.  When that happens, you're letting them know that  imperfection is OK (and even fun if you can laugh at the results).  Even if the tune changes every time you read it, it shows them that change is good and that there are many ways to accomplish a task.  The opportunities for good lessons go on and on. Before you know it, they'll want to give it a try and will start making up their own songs.

It's not always easy.  As Pooh says in The House at Pooh Corner, Chapter 9, "...Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get,they're things which get you.  And all you can do is to go where they can find you."  So, the next time you read these types of stories, I hope the tunes find you!

Just Dance

posted Jul 14, 2010, 9:41 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood

Have you ever noticed how children just naturally dance when they hear music?  I'm trying to remember where I was recently when some music was playing and I spotted a mom with a young baby who was bouncing in her arms with great delight.  It was a great example of how attuned babies are to music and rhythm from really early on.  It's not so important where it was, or what was playing -- what was striking was the energy and joy that the baby and mother were enjoying in that moment.  It reminds me of when my children were younger and I would put on some tunes, pick them up and dance around.  As babies they couldn't get enough of it and before long they were dancing on their own.  Now they like to show off their own hilarious moves!  So, why not throw on some tunes and take a few minutes to have a little family dance party?  Whether you have two left feet or the best moves for miles around, you're bound to find smiles and laughter will fill the room when you just dance.

Listen to Live Music

posted Jun 19, 2010, 7:54 PM by Marsha Goodman-Wood   [ updated Jun 19, 2010, 9:36 PM ]

During the summer months, there are often many opportunities to listen to live music outdoors, often for free.  Seek out local concert series, whether or not it's a type of music you usually listen to, and whether or not you are familiar with the genre.  It's such a great experience for children to see the connection between what they're hearing and seeing!  There's nothing like feeling the vibrations and energy of live music.  Most of all, clap and dance along and enjoy the experience with your children.  Check out my Useful Links where I've posted links to a few places to check out live music.  The article is an especially good resource with links to many local series.  (Email me your favorites, and I'll add them to the list!)

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