Music and movement

child touching polished stones and pebbles

The importance of sensory play

If there’s one thing in common about young children, it’s their ability to make a mess! Children learn best through direct experiences – exploring the world around them with their whole being. They stare, grab, smell, listen, rub, or lick unfamiliar objects, using all their senses to collect data that will be wired permanently into their memory.


If a child’s environment is too sterile or limited, they are deprived of this rich learning. What can parents and teachers do to offer diverse sensory experiences without becoming completely overwhelmed by the inevitable mess? Read this.

little girl playing guitar on the floor

Singing new songs

“Singing and music are part of children’s development. We miss opportunities for learning if we rely on singing only a limited number of the good old favourites,” writes Marjorie Ouvry. “Have we an appropriate repertoire up our sleeves?” Here are some helpful tips and ideas.

personal signature


How music helps to ease stress during the day

Why do so many of us use “the Clean-Up Song” to indicate that it is time to pack up the toys? Probably because it works! Repetitive, familiar songs are one of the best ways to announce and calmly ease children through daily transition times. A child doesn’t need a lot of information to transition, and a tune—used regularly—offers them a signal without overwhelming them with words.

In her years of teaching experience, Margaret Hooton has acquired a wealth of tried-and-tested little songs for all moments of the day. Try them yourself! Listen here.

personal signature

child and teacher playing clapping game together

Learning through music

Grant, five months old, attends a nursery where the staff and children love to sing. One day his key worker lost her voice, and she noticed that Grant was fussy and discontented.

“We have all experienced crying, fussy, or sick children in our care who become calm when quality instrumental music is played. They are listening!” writes Elizabeth Carlton, music consultant at High/Scope Educational Research Foundation.

“If we sing to our three- and four-year-olds, we will probably be asked to sing the song again…and again. Many listening experiences during the first two years of life are necessary before children actually sing or talk with us…Songs, instruments, and instrumental music are wonderful ways to develop children’s listening skills and awareness of different words and musical pitches.” Read the article

Boy playing the ukulele

The school where everyone plays the ukulele

Have you ever been in a school where students learn to play the ukulele before learning to write? I have! It’s on the Isle of Luing, in the Inner Hebrides. Head teacher Stephen Glen-Lee explained, “The ukulele is almost the same cost as a recorder but has a faster success rate. A child can make a really good noise from a ukulele in a few minutes!” Their whole-school band, Ukulele Luing, has performed before 1200 people in Perth. We too were treated to a spontaneous concert. I especially enjoyed a homemade song with the catchy refrain, “I can play my ukulele and we’ll have ourselves a ceilidh.” The words rhyme – ceilidh is a Gaelic celebration.

Watch a video of the children’s performance for us

Visiting this little school was an adventure. First Martin and I took a ferry to the island. Then we drove a winding track, losing phone connection as we passed an old slate mine. Because folk still put out gifts for faeries here, I expected the school would be old-fashioned. It turned out to be one of the most forward-thinking schools I’ve ever experienced. Fair trade symbols alternate with children’s sewing and artwork on the walls. A green flag (and compost bins in the back) proclaim an eco-school. Most important, children’s individual strengths are recognised and built upon. For instance a lad dealing with ADHD loves constructing in the woodwork shop. They have a small steep mountain behind the school, and some children were busy with a rappelling rope while others were building dens.

When Stephen applied for the headship, he laid down one condition: the council had to supply a full set of hollow blocks. When he won the job, he got rid of all chairs and desks and began with only the hollow blocks! The children created a pirate ship and staff learned to teach all subjects within it. Stephen did eventually purchase furniture, after ensuring that our wood comes from sustainable forests.

Both the children and their teachers seemed wholly motivated in all they were doing and learning. If we ever get the chance, we’ll go there again. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy these lively young musicians as much as we did!

Search or browse our learning library

Filter by topic or type