Category

Music and singing

Singing with small children – seven simple strategies!

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, parties, Party, play, Playing, Uncategorized
by Sarah Marsh BSc, ALCM
Director for Musical Bumps

So let’s start with the ‘why’ and move on to the ‘how’. Why on earth should we sing to/with our children? My own mum (she’s 84 and doesn’t live round here – so she won’t be reading this unless I’m very unlucky!) can’t sing for toffee. It’s quite painful asking her to sing, and she mostly avoids it – singing to babies or at church is her limit. My own anger at her teacher telling her she couldn’t sing – this is back in 1942 – is still bubbling away, but that’s another story…

Anyway, why does my non-singing mum still sing to babies? Deep down, she probably knows that singing is the very best thing to do with babies. Babies hear language in their musical brains – they hear all that talking, cooing and singing as music (and they won’t care if you are a bit out of tune – so just go for it). Think about it for a moment – music has patterns that are clearer and more distinct than speech, music has intonations that are better defined than speech. If we want our children to be good communicators, then the absolutely best thing to do is to sing with them.

So – now for the ‘how’. Here are seven simple strategies that might help you get started (or give you new ideas if you are already tunefully chirping!)

1. Back to basics.
Whilst we might want to be bang up to date, there’s nothing wrong with singing some of those old songs (although not the one I learnt when I was little “do you want a cigarette, sir?”!). Humpty Dumpty, Twinkle Twinkle and those ever-spinning Wheels on the Bus are an important part of our heritage. If you are lucky enough to have roots in other cultures, or know family and friends that have, then use their songs too.

2. Can’t remember the words?
Dum di dum di dum will do just as well. My father was known to his nieces as ‘uncle boom boom’ because every song started well and ended up as boom di boom di boom. It’s not just about the words, it’s about the game, the interaction and the steady beat!

3. Join a group!
It’s great to have a repertoire of songs for every occasion – joining a music class really helps with this! Great too for making new friends with similar aged children.

4. Sing your way through the day…
Have you got a ‘hello’ song to greet your child with every morning? No? make one up – quickly! What about a ‘tidy up your room’ song – that would be useful, don’t you think? Singing about what you are doing is a great way to involve your child too, just gets a little embarrassing at the supermarket!

5. Transactional singing This call and response style is used right across Africa. It’s a great way to use music to build communication. If your baby has some favourite little noises, try copying them – a conversation (of sorts) will ensue – it’s fun, if a little silly. Once the game is established, you can try starting it – with
real words this time!

6. Can’t sing, won’t sing? Oh, go on – no? Okay try some rhymes instead. Humpty Dumpty works just as well (even better maybe) without the tune. The pattern and intonation of your voice will be just as useful!

7. Be a bit silly and be a bit rude!
Don’t worry if you divert from real words – sing or play around with this rhyme and your own name. “Anna fifanna, sticklanna bombanna, sticklanna fifanna that’s how you spell Anna!”

And remember that anything to do with wees, poos or farts is hilarious when you are tiny, “beans beans, good for your heart, the more you eat the more you…” well, you get the drift!

Sarah Marsh is a music teacher and advisor working in primary and early years music across the UK. Sarah founded and directs Musical Bumps www.musicalbumps.com with classes in Sussex from newborn to starting school. Please contact Belinda McBride on 07582 256957 for more information.

Music and babies

Benefits of musical toys for babies and how to make your own

By | dance & Art, fun for children, Mental health, Music and singing, play
by Ellie Mckinsey
www.knowyourinstrument.com

If you recall your childhood years, you may remember that nearly any object – anything at all – can become a toy. A ruler or a rod can suddenly become an enchanted sword or a magic wand, a comb transforms into a guitar, a piece of paper when crumpled enough and tied with string becomes a puppet, even a pet. The possibilities are endless as a child learns to develop creativity and let their imagination soar.

Indeed, the best toys don’t even have to come from a store. A child may leave an expensive stacking toy in favor of crinkly paper, and that’s fine. Anything that sparks imagination, engages the senses and encourages social interaction can be considered a toy. Objects that let children explore new shapes, textures, sounds and colours are great for developing minds and bodies.

Here we’re taking a look at musical toys and what babies can get from playing with them. We’ll also share with you some tips on making your own musical toys for your babies to play with, using stuff you may already have at home. Let’s get started!

Importance of musical toys for your baby
In the first four months of a baby’s life, their emotional, sensory and motor experiences help prepare them for further developmental achievements. At this early stage, babies benefit from sensory toys that involve bright, contrasting colors, textures and pleasant sounds.

Moreover, by four months, babies can already bring their hands together in the middle of their bodies and use their eyes to co-ordinate hand movement. Musical, easy-to-grasp toys such as rattles help build grip and tactile stimulation while stimulating hearing.

By their sixth month, babies can now sit and hold objects with their hands. They start manipulating objects with more controlled movement patterns. At this phase, babies benefit from toys that roll or move and make sounds when touched. This further enhances gross motor skills and sense of hearing, and prepares babies for crawling (watching a baby crawl after a rolling egg shaker is super adorable).

Musical toys that encourage movement also give babies a sense of accomplishment and gratification that would inspire them to create the sounds again and again. It’s like they’re already making their own music! Soon, babies would develop a sense of rhythm, a more refined sense of hearing and more control over their movement.

This mix of motor control and sensory awareness is crucial for your baby’s overall development. The ability to fine-tune movements and notice differences in sounds is important for learning to communicate and later on, play an instrument such as a guitar, piano, viola or the drums.

Tips for making your own musical toys
So, are you ready to get crafty and make your own musical toys? Here are some fantastic ideas to get you started.
• Old or unused pots, pans, large tin cans and plastic bowls are great for beat-making and can be played with or without an object to hit them with (like a wooden spoon).
• Make your own rolling shaker or rattle using empty plastic water bottles. Put small raw pasta shells, marbles or pebbles inside and glue the cap shut.
• Give your baby a tactile and sensory feast by making scrunchy, noisy socks. Remember those socks that have lost their partners? They’re perfect for this project – simply put crinkly wrapping paper in them and close off the ends with a secure and tidy knot. Let your baby scrunch the socks with delight.
• Got an empty tissue box and extra elastic bands lying around? Fashion a string instrument with them!

When making your DIY musical toys, remember to watch out for any potential hazards like small parts, sharp corners or edges, loose strings and toxic materials. Make sure the materials you use are clean and baby-safe. Give your toys a test run before letting your child play with them, and always keep an eye on your baby during playtime. Have fun! –

 

The perfect musical instrument for little fingers?

By | dance & Art, Education, Music and singing, play, Playing

There’s a tiny little instrument that offers a big punch, Al Start from Go Kid Music is singing the praises of the humble ukulele. Let me stop you right there! You were about to turn the page, but hear me out! There are a few really great reasons why this small, innocent looking instrument could be your secret (musical) weapon. Indulge me…

There’s a window of opportunity, while your children are at primary school, to open up their world to music. You have the perfect combination of their brains being right in the ‘learning zone’, their little fingers start to do what their brains tell them (most of the time!) and they are open-minded and naturally curious.

For children of primary school age, I would argue, the ukulele makes a brilliant first instrument. Remember when you were at school? Perhaps not as long ago as I, but there was the good old recorder – a solid standard across the land, waiting for us to blow far too hard during a rendition of London’s Burning in assembly!

If the recorder was not your thing, then maybe it was the violin. Nothing wrong with that, but there’s a tremendous amount of technique to learn before you’re able to get a decent sound that doesn’t resemble a cat crying. For most children this can be a real turn off – a barrier to learning an instrument that could change their life forever. Children need quick results; they need the ‘win’ to encourage them to continue. That’s what makes the ukulele such a champ.

In just one lesson, your child will be able to play at least one song, and it’ll sound good! From there it’s only a matter of learning a couple more chord shapes and they will have the solid foundation to be able to play a wide selection of songs. If they prefer to pick tunes rather than strum chords, with just four strings it’s easy on the fingers, small and light to hold, meaning they can concentrate on learning the notes rather than worry about troublesome technique.

From your point of view as the banker, you’ll find the ukulele gives bang for your buck! You can buy a perfectly decent ukulele with good quality (Aquila) strings and a carry bag for under £25! Plus as the faithful audience member, you’ll appreciate how mellow the ukulele sounds (unlike it’s feline counterpart) while you paint that smile on and listen to Smoke on the Water for the 12th time!

What about lessons? Many schools and music services now offer ukulele clubs for free, there’s usually a keen teacher who will lead lunch-time or after-school uke club! Paid lessons are in small groups which make them fun and affordable.

YouTube has a plethora of free tutorials, and just searching the word ‘ukulele’ plus the song title your child fancies will bring up endless options.

There’s always a downside to playing a stringed instrument – you do have to tune them! To start with, the ukulele will need you to help it stay in tune. But don’t worry, there are many options. You can download a tuner app to your phone for free, find an online tuner that plays the note of each string for you to match, or you can buy a small clip-on digital tuner for under a fiver. So, don’t fall at the first hurdle. Persevere, and your ukulele will stay in tune.

The last of my favourite perks of your child learning the ukulele is that you can learn along with them. There is no excuse to mourn your lack of persistence with the violin any more. The ukulele makes an ideal shared activity, especially if you plump for online lessons. You can spend quality time with your child as well as being the next Von Trapp family and the life and soul of your next family gathering!

Handily, the ukulele comes in a range of sizes to suit us all. The smallest (soprano) is ideal for most children, the next size up is the ‘concert’ which is fab for growing hands and smaller adults. The ‘tenor’ is perfect for guitarists and those of us with bigger hands – I prefer a tenor uke as I was initially a guitarist, but I also love the concert size. They come in every colour under the sun – but do get the good strings already fitted as I mentioned earlier. I find the Mahalo M1 soprano range to be a great starter ukulele (no, I’m not an affiliate I just rate them) they tick all the afore-mentioned boxes and are widely available online.

So, I hope I’ve given you food for thought. If there’s a gift-giving opportunity on the horizon, perhaps you could give the gift of music (and treat yourself at the same time)!

Having taught ukulele in schools for over a decade Al Start has perfected the art and packaged it into one super-cool family-focused club! The Go Kid Ukulele Club features online lessons taking you from total beginner to ukulele hero at your own pace, for the price of just one ukulele. Check them out here: https://club.gokidmusic.com

Swim-Little-Fishy-Swim-Group-Photo

Sing, play… and learn!

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, parties, Uncategorized
by Al Start
www.gokidmusic.com

When our children are babies and preschoolers their lives are full of music – songs, nursery rhymes and bedtime lullabies. But when they start school, they seek songs that aren’t ‘babyish’. From the age of five to 10 children still need great songs to inspire them until they are old enough to find their own style.

Does your child struggle to learn in a conventional way? Even if they don’t, music and singing can play a huge part in supporting and even improving learning in subjects such as maths and literacy. Engaging in creative music activities positively affects self-confidence and aspirations. It gives children more motivation and subsequent attainment at school. It even lightens mood, reduces anger and improves behaviour. Handy!

Sadly, we are now seeing more children with mental health issues – even in Key Stage 1. Singing, playing musical instruments, and regularly listening to music are all proven to give significant wellbeing benefits. So music really should be a big part of your family’s daily routine.

As parents, carers and music-lovers, what can we do to help our children continue to develop their love of music?

Talk to your child’s teacher – how much music and singing is your child able to participate in each day? Could they do more? You may be pleasantly surprised.

Play music in your car (rather than give children tablets and gadgets to fiddle with). Singing together is a positive, bonding experience for adults and children alike.

Choose wisely – pick your favourite songs, or listen to the radio – but be aware of what the song is about. What do the words mean to a child? Can they relate? Are they even appropriate? Children listen to words and song lyrics way more that us adults – believe me, it’s all going in – good and bad!

Play soft music in the back-ground at home instead of having the TV on. Chat to your kids about who the song is by, what instruments can they hear?

Spotify is a great source of finding appropriate music for families to listen to together. In the USA they even have a genre known as ‘Kindie Music’ – Kids Indie – independent artists like me making music that is child-friendly and adult-friendly too!

Learn an instrument – another chance to spend a little more quality time with your child is to learn together. My favourite is the (affordable) ukulele. It’s easy for little fingers (I’d suggest from Year 2 upwards) and with just four strings you can play simple songs quickly. Its great fun for adults too!

Music lessons and classes – look in your local area for music projects. You will find basic instrument lessons but also think outside the box, and look up band projects for kids – groups that teach electric guitar, drums, rock/pop singing and so on – very cool and great socially too.

Get singing yourself! We concentrate on our children so much we may have lost touch with music ourselves. Did you used to play an instrument or love singing when you were at school? Get back into it, dude!

The Internet offers us access to amazing online tools to learn instruments, brush-up on old skills and try new things. Search for your favourite music activity and just see what’s out there. If you are inspired, you can inspire your children too!

Al Start is a children’s singer-songwriter and music specialist with 20 year’s experience.She set up her award-winning children’s music company Go Kid Music in 2015 to provide more children, schools and families with great music. Find them online for unique music for your family. Live shows, CDs, downloads, songs for learning/teaching, online music clubs and ukulele lessons. www.gokidmusic.com

 

trombone playing boy

Talent spotting in schools

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, Playing

Talent spotting in schools
The difference between scholarships and bursaries

More attention than ever before is being devoted to the significant levels of financial support provided by independent schools, to assist aspirational families on lower incomes. According to the Independent Schools Council’s 2019 census, 34% of pupils educated at independent schools currently receive help with their fees, at a cost of £1bn. The majority of this is provided directly from the schools themselves.

Fee assistance comes in many different shapes and sizes and, as a result, the world of scholarships and bursaries can seem like a minefield to those embarking on the journey for the first time. What can make things even trickier, is that different schools give different names to their individual types of fee assistance. One school might offer a ‘scholarship’ worth 10%, whereas at its neighbour down the road, it might be 50%. It is therefore important to know how to navigate the world of scholarships and bursaries and to establish the difference between them.

At the majority of schools, scholarships will refer to a portion of money off school fees and they will be awarded on merit – the result of a child being an excellent academic all-rounder or brilliant at, for example, art, drama, music, sport, or design technology. They usually (although not always) come with some form of percentage discount on the cost of a child’s overall fees.

Bursaries, on the other hand, are usually hosted by charitable foundations within independent schools and tend to be means-tested places that are offered to an outstanding pupil from a family on a very low income who would never be able to consider providing their child with a private education without the support of a bursary. In most cases, this level of assistance gives life-changing access to talented students who would otherwise never benefit from an independent school education and all that it offers. Being independent, these schools have been able to keep the torch alight for vital areas of the wider curriculum – such as music, the arts, competitive team sports, modern and classical languages – that have so often had to be marginalised in their state counterparts.

The landscape has changed significantly in recent years and it is now more usual for scholarships and awards to attract a very modest reduction in school fees, with larger fee remissions being offered through means-tested bursaries. In the very early stages it is important to establish the detail of the criteria for entry, the maximum scholarship or bursary that a school is prepared to award, and the process that you and your child will need to go through to secure either a scholarship or bursary.

A typical scholarship process could look like this:
• Initial enquiry received by School Registrar who discusses scholarship criteria, any specific examination requirements, for example.
• Families interested in pursuing an application are sent appropriate forms for completion.
• Parents submit completed forms, with child’s most recent school report and reference from current school.
• Application considered and, if successful, child invited for interview.
• Child puts together a portfolio demonstrating their abilities and wider interest in the area for which they are applying for a scholarship.
• Child visits the school with portfolio, is interviewed by the Head, attends interview with the Head of Department and demonstrates their talents, undergoes academic tests, as appropriate.
• Once all applicants are interviewed, candidates are considered by the Head and Heads of Department.
• Scholarships offered according to merit and number available.

While the process for securing a bursary might look like this:
• Initial enquiry received by the School’s Registrar, who discusses the application process and criteria applied.
• Families interested in pursuing their application are sent an ‘Application and Means-Testing Financial’ form for completion.
• The family completes and returns the form with the child’s most recent school report.
• The child’s potential is assessed ‘on paper’ by the Head.
• The family’s financial circumstances are then assessed by the School’s Bursar or an independent financial assessment company.
• If successful, the child’s parents or guardians are interviewed by the Head.
• If successful, the child attends an ‘experience day’ at the school, is interviewed by the Head, is academically assessed and is given the opportunity to demonstrate their particular talents to relevant Heads of Department (maybe art, drama, DT, music or sport).
• If successful, the family might be visited at home.
• If successful, the Head might put forward short-listed candidates with recommendations for consideration by, and confirmation from, Charity Board.
• Foundation Scholarship places offered, as appropriate.

Probably the most important thing for any parent or guardian interested in applying for a scholarship or bursary for their child or charge to remember, is that they should not worry about approaching their school of choice and openly discussing the opportunities available. There is no such thing as ‘saying the wrong thing’ and it may well be that their child is exactly the kind of student that a school is looking for. The important thing to realise is that the schools are as keen to support talented children with bursaries and scholarships – provided
they match their criteria – as parents or guardians are to secure them.

Christian Heinrich is Headmaster at Cumnor House Sussex in Danehill. He set up The Cumnor Foundation which offers 2 means-tested bursaries each year that cover the entire cost of a talented child’s education for ten years from the age of 8 to 18, in collaboration with sixteen independent senior school partners. www.cumnor.co.uk/cumnor-community/the-cumnor-foundation/
For further information please contact Cecilia Desmond, Registrar at Cumnor House Sussex on 01825 792006 or email registrar@cumnor.co.uk. www.cumnor.co.uk

Brighton-Festival

Art saves lives

By | dance & Art, Education, family, fun for children, Mental health, Music and singing, Playing, reading, Relationships, Theatre
by Eleanor Costello
Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival

Young people face new challenges every day. From navigating the complexities of an ever-changing Internet culture to fighting for their future in an era of climate crisis. Art provides opportunities for everyone to make sense of the world, to test our boundaries and let our imagination thrive. Children benefit from having the opportunity to read books, go to theatre shows and to make their own art.

The acclaimed poet and Brighton Festival 2020 Guest Director, Lemn Sissay said; “Art saves lives, it literally saves lives. Art is how we translate the human spirit. That’s why you have art and religions. That’s why people sing. That’s why we read poems at funerals and weddings, we need some bridge between the spiritual, the physical, the past, the present, the future.”

Through events like Brighton Festival, young people can explore, discover and participate in the arts. For 30 years the Children’s Parade has officially marked the start of Brighton Festival, with over 5,000 participants, including 3,473 school children, stepping into show stopping costumes they have designed and made themselves. Around 10,000 people come along to see the parade and be part of the largest annual children’s event in the UK. The parade is a unique event produced by community arts organisation, Same Sky, which offers thousands of young people the chance to come together in creations they’ve designed around a central theme, giving them a sense of belonging. In 2020, the Children’s Parade theme is Nature’s Marvels, offering a platform for participants to think more about the world and environment around them.

Stories fire the imagination, invite us to empathise with and understand others, give children the creativity needed to face the world and even the tools to change it. Young City Reads is an annual Brighton Festival and Collected Works CIC reading project. A book is selected for primary school children in Brighton & Hove, Sussex and beyond to read and discuss, culminating in a final event with the book’s author at the Festival in May. In 2019, over 3,000 pupils took part in free weekly activities. For 2020, the chosen book is Malamander by Thomas Taylor, featuring a daring duo Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma who team up to solve the mystery of a legendary sea-monster. This is a chance for schools across the county to foster a love of reading in young people and give support to teaching staff to think outside the box with their curriculum.

Hilary Cooke, Brighton Festival Children’s Literature Producer says; “Children’s book events are an opportunity to turn the private activity of reading into a shared experience. Being in a room with a new (or favourite) author and a group of young readers is quite magical, with laughter, imagination and surprise. Illustrators drawing live on stage create another layer of creativity that is beautiful to watch (and possibly my favourite thing).” Due East, Hangleton and Knoll Project and the community steering committees enable local residents to make their vision come to life in Our Place, a Brighton Festival event that has been running for three years. Pop up performances take place across Hangleton and East Brighton with a community event in each area. Seeing arts and culture being celebrated and given a platform in their own neighbourhood opens the door for young people to think differently about the places they live in.

Brighton Festival offers opportunities for young people in Brighton and beyond to experience groundbreaking, original and spectacular performances by international artists. Australian company, Gravity & Other Myths bring a new jaw-dropping circus show bound to blow the minds of aspiring acrobats, Drag Queen Story Time gives children the opportunity to be who they want to be with a LGBTQ friendly storytelling, and hilarious theatre show Slime allows two to five year olds to squish and squelch their way through a tale about a slug and caterpillar.

May is a time of spectacular celebration across the county, with Brighton Fringe, The Great Escape, Artist Open Studios and Charleston Festival in addition to Brighton Festival’s jam-packed programme.

Supporting the next generation of art-goers is integral to Brighton Festival’s spirit and this year’s programme aims to bring a variety of events for children and young people – from infants to Instagrammers. Children of all ages can discover, create and participate in the arts, giving them unexpected and enriching experiences that can be shared with their friends or family. Many events are free, others starting as low as £5 and there are often family offers so the whole clan can come along.

Head to www.brightonfestival.org today to find out what’s happening at Brighton Festival from 2nd to 24th May 2020.

theatre boy popcorn

Enjoy the show!

By | dance & Art, family, Music and singing, parties, Playing, Theatre, Uncategorized

We are lucky enough to have some fantastic theatres in the county and it is important to support local theatres if we want to keep them around. Some of our theatres have some wonderful shows on for children over the next few months so it’s a great time to visit them.

Seeing a live show is an escape from daily life for a couple of hours – whatever your age. Children can fully immerse themselves in what they are seeing on stage. Apart from the pure enjoyment of seeing a show there are many other benefits of taking your children to see a show.

Seeing a live performance encourages children to be more empathetic and to put themselves in the shoes of others. They can imagine how it will feel to have the family of the boy on stage, or what it feels like to be a soldier, or even to live as a refugee. Theatres encourage you to step into the shoes of a character – building empathy, understanding and inclusivity.

Many of today’s theatre shows stem from books. For children who have read the books, there’s nothing quite like watching their favourite characters come to life. It’s also a great way to expose children who haven’t read the books to some fantastic and imaginative literature.

Lots of new shows that are aimed at children tackle issues that children many find hard to talk about such as mental health, friendship, sense of belonging, bullying and family breakdowns. You will be amazed at some of the conversations that seeing a show can prompt. Taking children to the theatre can give parents a way to explore difficult themes together and a way to begin those vital conversations.

For little ones, theatre is simply a lot of fun. There’s so much to watch, sing along to and laugh along with. Even if children are too young to understand verbal dialogue they will still be stimulated by the visual side of the show and shows that are aimed at toddlers will be deliberately short and more interactive with lots to keep young children stimulated.

Some parents find taking their children to the theatre a daunting experience; will they be able to sit still long enough? Will they be quiet and what happens if they need the toilet during the show? When theatres put on shows for children, they realise that you can’t predict
how your child will behave and are far more accepting of the odd interruption from a child who needs the toilet or who can’t manage to sit down for that long.

Shows for children usually have age recommendations. These aren’t set in stone and act as a guide for how old audience members should be. These recommendations act much like certificates for films, but also give you a sense of whether your child will understand the plot of the show.

Get children excited about going to the show in advance and talk to them about the kind of behaviour that is expected. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time for the inevitable toilet queues and to get settled comfortably in your seats.

Many theatres now offer relaxed performances for children with autism who may find a show too overwhelming. During these performances, the house lights often stay up, loud noises are made quieter and there’s sometimes a chill out area to sit in if children find it too much to take in.

A trip to the theatre should be accessible to all, and theatres are working hard to make theatres welcoming and enticing for children. A theatre show provides an escape for all ages and you get to sit back while someone else is in charge of the entertainment!

Gifted and talented?

By | Education, fun for children, Music and singing, Uncategorized
by Helen Abbott, Banstead Prep School

If Einstein could not talk until he was four or read until he was seven (which is apparently the case) and Didier Drogba studied accountancy before finding himself playing for Chelsea at the mature age of 26, how can we hope to spot the gifted and talented amongst the cherished progeny that walk through our gates? What does ‘gifted and talented’ actually mean and how should we be supporting them?

Gifted and talented is a term generally used to describe children who are beyond their peers either in academic ability or in a specific skill. ‘Gifted’ tends to refer to those who have a high academic ability, while ‘talented’ relates more to those who are adept in a practical subject, such as sport, music or art. The general assumption in the past was that these children would thrive no matter what. This is most definitely not the case.

Children who are inquisitive, read early, have an excellent memory, are good at problem solving and learn to speak very young (although clearly not the Einsteins of this world) are possibly gifted. I say ‘possibly’ because anything to do with children is an inaccurate art and I tremble at the idea of putting a child in a box with a label on it – and with many people being late developers, there is often nothing evident at an early stage anyway.

When I set about writing this article, I had in mind the plethora of extra activities that we offer our gifted and talented at our school. From maths challenges to gifted writers’ workshops, from refereeing matches to representing the school in a given sport, from workshops at senior schools for instrumentalists and drama prodigies to being mentored in advanced art club. Every opportunity exists to go above and beyond.

However, as I continued to write, I thought back to the days when I attended toddler groups with my own children, where a host of affirmations from adoring parents who were keen to describe their infant’s latest achievement greeted me. Whether it is taking their first steps holding someone’s hand or doing a backward flip, murmuring their first word or reciting the alphabet backwards, proud parents coo over their newfound talent. When do these talents stop being counted as significant? When do we stop noticing every advance and consider it just ‘average’?

Banstead pupil Georgie Forster, age 10

Many high fliers struggle when they are younger because they have learning disabilities, which they are able to hide well. These children are frequently overlooked. Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that his brain was ‘addled’ but he went on to become one of America’s greatest inventors. Every child in the class needs access to a higher level of learning and at our school, we offer challenges to encourage our children to be courageous and tenacious.

Children need freedom to extend themselves but freedom within boundaries. I have to return to languages to give an example because it’s what I know best: it is not enough to simply say, “Now write your own question in French”. Rather say, “Write a question to your best friend/to the prime minister/to a unicorn!” Allow them to use their imagination but frame what they need to do.

Extension activities should provide greater depth on the subject. Research materials should be readily available, but children shouldn’t just be left to work on their own projects. Even as adults, we need support, a second opinion and a good sprinkling of praise!

Classwork should challenge from the beginning. Children should have different amounts of information, as much or as little as is needed to challenge them, but they should all complete the same task so that the outcome is the same. Teach to the top of the class and support those who need it. Aim high and inspire excellence!

At home, children need fewer boundaries for their passions. Days out exposing children to new experiences; encouraging them to read widely, whether it’s a literary tome or a football magazine; and having open conversations are all essential. And, when needed, have an open dialogue with your child’s teacher about their strengths.

I do wonder, although my fingers are almost sticking to the keys in my reluctance to type this, but maybe the geniuses of the future will be YouTubers or game makers. The geniuses of the past certainly faced criticism for their passions! However, unless you are prepared for your YouTubing offspring to burn out at the age of 21, I suggest you make sure they have exposure to other experiences as well!

In my years of teaching, I have never met one of those students who sits their GCSEs at nine or goes to university aged 11. They are few and far between. Every child is gifted and talented in some special way, whether it is in leadership skills, having a way with the spoken word or playing Mozart. Our school ethos of Education with Character, offers a variety of ways of learning, ensuring that we, as teachers, spot unique talents and cultivate them, and parents are encouraged to do the same. We need to push our children as far as possible in their ability – and then another little nudge beyond. Let’s make sure we don’t fail to spot any Thomas Edisons or Albert Einsteins of the future.

Banstead Prep School is a co-educational prep school and nursery for girls and boys aged 2-11 where there’s more to a good education than learning.
www.bansteadprep.com

Choosing a first instrument

By | dance & Art, fun for children, Music and singing

by Oliver Roberts
Penguin Instrumentors

As a parent the topic of music lessons will likely crop up at some point and knowing how to help your child with lessons can feel like a total mystery: “Which instrument should I choose?” “Are group or private lessons best?” “What should I look for in a teacher?” These are just a few of the questions parents can face before starting lessons. However, supporting your child in their musical pursuits doesn’t have to be a challenge and we have put together a few tips to help you and your child answer that all-important first question of which instrument to choose!

Before we get started
As obvious as it may seem, the first questions you should be asking yourself when choosing an instrument are “Will my child find this fun and enjoy the experience?” and “Does my child have any preference?” After all, enjoyment leads to enthusiasm, enthusiasm leads to engagement and engagement leads to – reward!

So which instrument?
The biggest decision when starting music lessons is deciding on the instrument your child should learn. But luckily this isn’t something you need to fret over because there is no wrong answer. The transferable skills learnt from being musical in general are just as important as the specific instrument being learnt. Besides, there are always opportunities to press pause if your child isn’t enjoying lessons and try something different.

So, assuming that you don’t already have an instrument in mind, the first step in choosing an instrument is to find out which instruments are easily available to you. This may mean researching what the local teachers in your area can offer or which instruments are taught at your child’s school. The size of the instrument may also be worth considering. Pianos for example are a fab first instrument, however, they are also pretty large pieces of furniture and not all of us have the space to house them (although a digital piano or keyboard are good alternatives if a piano won’t fit). Other instruments like cellos, saxophones and some of the larger brass instruments can also be heavy and tricky for younger hands to grip properly.

Age
Your child’s age is a big factor in choosing an instrument. The earliest recommended ages for most musical instruments is generally about seven or eight years old, with the ukulele and recorder being a bit younger, and guitars, big brass and drums being a little older. This is largely due to the development of a child’s fine motor skills. However, if your child is showing an interest in music before this age then activities like singing around the house, group music sessions for infants or even having fun with rhythms during impromptu drumming sessions (using household items) can all make for great introductions to music.

Cost
Budget is another important consideration when picking out an instrument. There are instruments to fit all budgets and prices can range from just a few pounds to tens of thousands. However, some music shops may offer financing options for pricier instruments and some schools and music schemes offer to loan instruments to their pupils. It may also be worth noting that not all instruments are always treated equal when it comes to lesson prices with orchestral, piano and singing lessons typically priced higher than guitar, ukulele and drums which may become significant over the long-term.

Motivations
The last thing to think about when weighing up your options is the reason for learning. Almost any instrument can fit any musical aspiration, however, there are a couple of points to be aware of. If you think a casual approach to music would work best for your child then maybe the guitar, drums or piano would be your best choice because of their relative ease when starting out. On the other hand, orchestral instruments may take a little longer before the practice starts yielding the same results but they are fantastic for providing unique social experiences with opportunities to perform in orchestras, chamber groups and other ensembles as well as large repertoires of truly beautiful solo pieces to enjoy. It is also fairly common for children to start learning an instrument like the piano and after a year or two switch onto something else

Size
Once you’ve decided which instrument is right for you and your child, the next question will be, what size? Most instruments come in varying sizes which are suitable for the different ages of children and many music shops will have someone who can help you find the correctly proportioned instrument to suit your child.

Still undecided?
At the end of the day, there are always ‘the big three’. Piano, violin and guitar and if in doubt you can always plump for one of these. There is a wide range of instruments available to buy, many teachers to choose from and a variety of directions that lessons can be taken from classical grades to pop, jazz and folk. And if that doesn’t work out, you can always change your mind and try something else!

Instrumentors is a music lessons service established in Brighton & Hove specialising in private one-to-one tuition and online lesson management.
www.instrumentors.co.uk

 

Live is best

By | dance & Art, fun for children, Music and singing, Theatre

With the summer holidays around the corner, there is a bit more time to treat children to a trip to see a live performance at your local theatre. Younger children will enjoy a show during the day, and you can take older children in the evening without worrying so much about getting them to bed on time.

Many theatres have more shows on for children during the school holidays and may also run workshops for those who want to get more involved.

Live theatre can be a magical and memorable experience but recent research by Birbeck, University of London, has also shown that taking youngsters to watch a theatre performance could provide a host of developmental benefits, including improved emotional intelligence and opportunities to discuss difficult subjects.

It is now widely accepted that play-acting and role-play is a fundamental part of development, allowing children to engage in different personalities, work their way through complex social relationships and navigate emotional issues. Watching a live performance can offer some of the same benefits. Many of the shows aimed at children have an under-lying moral message and subjects such as love, friendship and bullying are often explored in a fun and safe environment, which can bring about unexpected but important conversations once the show has finished.

Going to the theatre as a family is also a great bonding experience. Parents don’t have to worry about entertaining their children (it’s being done for them on the stage) and everyone can relax, sit back and enjoy the show together. There are all sorts of shows on at local theatres during the summer. Some shows are for the very young and are short and interactive to keep little ones engaged, while others are full length plays aimed at older children. Many shows are now based on children’s favourite books such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar or books by David Walliams or Jacqueline Wilson. There are also live performances and sing-a-longs of films such as Frozen or children’s favourite television shows. These can be a good first introduction to the theatre for young children as they will be very familiar with the story and characters.

In order to get the most out of any show, get children excited and looking forward to the show in advance. If the show you are going to has a soundtrack, you could listen to it in advance. This is a great way to get children familiar with the show without overloading them with too much information. If you know the basics of the story, you could tell it at bedtime the night before so children will know what to expect, but family-friendly shows are normally easy to understand.

Going to see a live performance is a truly memorable experience and it is a wonderful way to spark a child’s imagination – you never know where it may lead them!

Kids Week in the West End

Kids Week in London is a wonderful opportunity to see a West End show.
The price of West End theatre shows puts it out of reach for many people, but Kids Week makes it far more affordable and is a way of encouraging families to go to the theatre.

A child aged 16 or under can go free to any participating show when accompanied by an adult paying full price, and you can buy up to two extra children’s tickets at half price. And there are no booking or postage fees to pay! It has proved so popular that it is no longer just on for a week, but for the whole of August.

Tickets are now on sale. The top shows sell out very quickly, but you can normally pick up tickets for the lesser known shows fairly easily and perhaps see something that you may not normally go to.

For further details go to www.officiallondontheatre.com/kids-week