Social-emotional learning is a critical piece to positive early childhood development, and we know that music can accelerate this growth.
But how do we as educators use music to boost social-emotional skills in physically-distanced or virtual classrooms? And what does it look like by age?
1. Use simple rhythms or songs to connect children to one another.
Remember when COVID-19 quarantines first happened and the most heart-warming viral videos were music mosaics? We keep that same energy in a virtual or physically-distanced classroom through music. Whether children are tapping out beats with wooden spoons on Zoom or clapping in time at their desks, they’re synchronizing their minds, bodies, and spirits. And that is a key part of social-emotional learning…overcoming barriers to play together while technically apart.
2. Enjoy musical stop-and-go activities to expend energy and control movements.
As early education educators, one of our biggest fears right now is promoting sedentary learning. An easy way to help little ones get the wiggles out while also teaching them how to self-regulate is to partake in fun stop-and-go activities. We use songs or instrument plays and have the children move around and we pause the music periodically throughout. Our littles learn the cues to start and stop their bodies, and have fun doing it! This works easily in a virtual setting (with a parent present) or in the classroom.
If you’re looking to practice this skill outside of class, we love “Going to the Castle” because it’s a pre-formatted stop-and-go track! All you have to do is press play. Stream it on our free Kindermusik App via the Apple App Store or Google Play.
3. Play music that celebrates various cultures to enhance inclusivity.
You can never share multicultural tunes too early. Children don’t start to fully put the pieces together until around age 5, but cultural awareness starts much earlier. Even young toddlers recognize and delight in authentic musical sounds from around the world. And preschoolers can surprise you with intelligent questions about the difference is that make us all special. We love showering our students with sounds from around the world!
One thing that’s not changing this school year is the need to continually and consistently foster social-emotional skills across multiple environments—in a physical classroom or online.
The key is knowing what to look for in various age groups and infusing the power of (enjoyable) music that triggers a positive behavioral response. You’ll be amazed at what a little rhythmic connection will do to boost the milestones you’re trying to meet.
Written by Amelia Vitarelli, owner and educator of My Little Conservatory in San Jose, CA. Amelia has been enriching the lives of children in Silicon Valley for over 20 years.