The baby scene
Now, I was never going to be very good at the baby scene, (from what I knew it didn’t involve the pub or a dance floor) but following a difficult time post birth with postpartum thyroiditis, I found it especially tricky to find classes and groups that suited not only babe but me too. Having a less than flowery introduction to the world of new motherhood I often felt unable to patter about the standard smiles, sleep and soothing. At one point, feeling like I should, I attended classes from babbling babies to baby yoga and everything in between, in an attempt to give babe everything she needed, in the early developmental stages of her life.
Finding the right baby and toddler class
I soon readjusted my approach and opted for quality over quantity. I felt more comfortable in the groups that asked the question ‘hi what’s your name?’ before the question ‘how many weeks?’ Musical Beginnings straight away ticked this box. Choosing a class that’s right for you and babe makes the whole experience far more enjoyable. I also asked myself the question ‘can I do this at home?’ Musical Beginnings offers an expertise beyond my own skill and ability. I thought my shower voice was nearly there but babe tends to disagree *cue disgusted frown* – children are good at grounding you. I enjoy this class because it’s a music class, no checking in with mum, no discussing sleep or lack of and no opportunity to tell the I gave birth ‘hero’ story (which they all are). I LOVED this. Having children is all-consuming, the ‘everyday’ of this class has been a breath of fresh air for me. Musical Beginnings means business and that business is music making! Rock on.
Musical Beginnings since 1892
I immediately warmed to Musical Beginnings because of its venue – The Oldham Lyceum, a place that oozes sound and symphony. Music was first taught here as early as 1892 and on entering the building, with the grand staircase and high ceilings you can feel this. I attended myself for several years playing in the Youth Wind Band and, every now and again these two things combined bring a little lump to my throat – the feeling of being part of something special and introducing babe to it. Musical Beginnings feels like just that, the start of something exciting – a wealth of future music making opportunity.
musicality is an intrinsic part of being human
Let’s begin with song and rhyme
Each week the music teacher begins with a series of songs and rhymes which are led by her expert singing voice. Her perfectly pitched renditions of classic children’s songs make it very easy to join in whole heartedly. This part of the session incorporates shakers, scarves, teddies and feathers, adding a great multi-sensory dimension. Babe’s favourite is the use of a giant, elasticized sheet that is stretched, wriggled and lifted by the group whilst signing various rhymes. Many songs support developing body awareness and language, hiding toes, tummies, heads, bouncing babies and tickling backs. Tidy up time is carried out by song – ‘give your scarves back to me, back to me, back to me,’ which helps babies quickly learn simple routines.
Movement and music
This part of the session sees the music teacher sharing another talent, which is casually playing the piano sat in the corner of the room. A wonderful opportunity for babies and toddlers to engage with live music making. Adults carry their little ones in a circle; flying, dancing, twirling, stomping, and jumping to various melodies and songs, played at different tempos and volumes. Thank goodness babe is now toddling this part by herself, I haven’t weighed her lately but I am sure she must weigh at least 100 stone!
Sharing a story
After the movement and music ‘workout’ the story session is perfectly timed, mainly for the grown ups who’ve earned themselves a sit down. This is a lovely opportunity to cuddle with your little one whilst a story is shared, often with flaps and bright pictures. Each child always has the opportunity to interact by lifting a flap, a lovely turn taking exercise teaching sharing and caring from an early age. Though a music class, I love that Musical Beginnings recognises the importance of early literacy. For more information on the benefits of reading with your baby visit the NCT website here.
The only music in the class that isn’t live, an orchestral or classical piece is played whilst a bubble machine makes bubbles. I recall one grown up exclaiming ‘it’s like being at a spa!’ I did query which spas she was attending as ten babies and a bubble machine, as lovely as it is, doesn’t quite cut it for me.
The music box
My ultimate favourite, the music box, the piece de resistance, the highlight of my Friday! When I first saw the giant music box of instruments being tipped out on the floor, as children were invited to select and play, I was like ‘YES!’ Now you must remember this over excitement comes from the context of me being an Early Years teacher, where music is often restricted by time and class size, which can make it an exercise in routine and organisation rather than moving and shaking. This freedom of access to music making is a great opportunity and hard to come by. The music teacher leads the singing, ‘the music box, it’s the music box, what shall we play today?’ And the noise, sorry music, begins. We play loudly and quietly, recognise different sounds and instruments, ‘play and play and play and stop.’ On the surface it’s simple, but the musical foundations that are being taught are brilliant and a really wonderful opportunity for babies and toddlers. The importance of early music has been recognised by the launch of the musical development matters framework highlighting that
Music should be seen as a core component of children’s learning and should be shared with young children to ensure they have broad, balanced and rounded experiences in early childhood and beyond.
The session ends with song, where each baby waves goodbye to one another, until next time.
The benefits of Musical Beginnings
Musical Beginnings is rich in learning. From the minute you walk in, to the last goodbye song, each interaction is planned meticulously with maximum benefit for the babies and toddlers taking part, and the best bit? It’s just good fun.
The Music Centre team have a very clear understanding of early development and a musical skill and capability that enables this to be translated perfectly to their audience. Musical Beginnings screams passion for music and young people, the music teacher had the names of the children down in a matter of minutes – a small but very sure indicator that relationships matter.
The babies and toddlers in these classes are developing skills in communication and language, working together, turn taking, tidying up and a wide range of social and emotional skills. This is before we look at the musical beginnings, playing loudly and quietly, learning what sounds instruments make, tone timbre and tempo. It’s all packed in to an enjoyable 45 minute session.
To find out more about the Oldham Lyceum and Musical Beginnings visit their website here. This includes class times, contact details and prices.