My job is awesome.  Being a Music Therapist with Early Childhood means that I can forever be goofy and silly and it all has a purpose.  Tonight, my job gets even better, as I get to take the children that I get the pleasure of working with on a weekly basis, and transform them into shining stars.  I like to say that I have gone to college in order to put on Holiday Concerts (wink).  The difference between early childhood and elementary or high school students is, regardless of how many hours we spend on material, the show will not be a rehearsed performance.  Instead, we will see a part of the process.

Last night was the Little Jewels Learning Center Holiday Performance. There were over 500 people who attended the event, and they were all there to see their children perform or, as I would like to say, “show off some new developmental skills”. So, how did we make the process and the performance of an Early Childhood Music Program merge, all while providing success for all?  Here are three tips to make your Early Childhood concert a success (all while keeping the process in mind):

1. Do not expect perfection. Of course I want kids to know what they are doing and follow directions, but we can’t expect the toddler to stand still and sing all of the words (many toddlers do not have many words to begin with).  If we expect children under the age of five to sit still and quiet for an hour concert, odds are, it will not happen.  If you expect perfection, you will be disappointed.  If you expect kids to be kids, then there are no surprises.

2. Set up Your Space with Success in Mind. Babies can not stand. Toddlers can not stand still.  Three’s and Fours just can not help but wave to mommy and daddy in the audience.  This is all completely normal behavior and it is OK.  Tonight, we have infants who like to crawl and infants who like to sit (we even have some that can not yet do either of those things).  Those who are most comfortable moving, will be provided with instruments on the floor (floor toms, bells and sticks for a certain song) and those who prefer the comfort of a stroller will be provided just that.  Teachers will be dispersed throughout so stage-diving will be at a minimum.  Children who prefer the comfort of being held, will be seated in a teachers’ lap.  To the audience, we look like a well oiled machine.  For toddlers, we make a semi-circle, but allow them to move around the contained space.  Some will dance, some will sing, some will sit. For the oldest kids in our show, threes, fours and fives, standing in a designated spot is extremely doable, but they better have something to do in addition to singing.  Put instruments in their hands or movements throughout the song. When you set up your space to allow for typical early childhood behaviors, everything will look natural.

3. Choose Developmentally Appropriate Material.  Infants can not play Boomwhackers. Instead, save the Boomwhackers for the older kids and have the infants and toddlers do something that is a bit more their style.  Infants can shake bells, tap a drum with one or two hands and may even be able to tap sticks together.  Find or write a song that addresses each of these milestones.  Toddlers and Two’s are learning new words and developing their language.  A song with simple repetitive words or phrases can go a long way.  The older children are likely speaking full sentences and may even be able to follow some organized rhythms, in addition, they enjoy a small challenge.  Sing and play songs that afford these children the opportunity to hone their musical talents.  For example, our three’s are singing a song that offers a call and response format. Our fours and fives are playing Boomwhackers, in a group, while given very clear cues and instructions. Songs related directly to children’s abilities and developmental level will be successful every time!

Last nights concert was a great success and I would like to congratulate and thank the staff and families of Little Jewels.  Great job!

Do you have a holiday performance (or any concert, really) with early childhood? What makes your performances successful?

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