How Do Young Children Learn?
This is what children do; this is their “work.” Think of how quickly the children learn the procedure of playing the “Mouse, Mousie” game, learn to wait until “Run!” to move, and learn to sing the song just by playing the game.
By manipulation of things
Give a young child something and he will hold it, turn it over, touch it, lay it down, pick it up, move it to another place, etc. He’s finding out what you can do with it. (This is a typical response of children to classroom rhythm instruments.)
By repetition of activities
Watch a child do the same activity over and over and over and over until he masters it, then continue to repeat the activity because of the satisfaction of knowing how to do it. Don’t we like to perform a learned composition again and again because it becomes so comfortable? We perform it better but with less effort, receiving more reward for our effort. Don’t we cook the same dish frequently because it turns out so well every time? Likewise, children in Kindermusik ask for the same activities over and over. Toddlers ask to repeat the ball activities, preschool-age children ask to repeat pretend play activities again and again, Young Child 1 students seem never to tire of Dr. Foster, etc.
By experimenting in their own way
Through trial and error children discover how things work. Even when an appropriate way to do something is modeled, they desire to try something different just to see what happens. Exploration is an important part of Wiggle & Grow classes. It gives children opportunities to play instruments in many ways. The children in Laugh & Learn delight in discovering new ways to play an instrument. Listen to a child “bang’ (so the mom says) on the piano. This may be the future jazz player discovering how note combinations sound.
By using all their senses to take in knowledge
Children must touch, physically feel, and move a thing around to learn about it. The youngest children put things in their mouths. Older children want (and need) to use the sense of touch. Compare what can be learned about a ball by manipulating it (it rolls, it has the quality of roundness, its size relative to the learner’s own hand, weight, its softness/hardness, what happens when it’s thrown, etc.) with what can be learned about it by looking at a picture of a ball or seeing someone else hold it up. Until children begin to develop the ability to think abstractly, they must use their sense of smell, touch, taste, feel, hearing, to learn about something.
Imagine learning about an instrument only by hearing someone talk about it. How much more is learned by seeing a picture of it? by hearing it? by touching a real instrument, and ultimately, by having someone actually play that real instrument in your presence. The more experiential the approach, the more that is learned.
It is only when the children reach the ages for Young Child that abstract thinking and symbolism has developed to the point where concepts such as music reading can be approached. The basic level of their developing ability to think abstractly and to use symbols such as notation must be kept in mind when teaching young children. While they may understand that notes represent pitches, can they really be expected to “read” music in the sense that an adult would? Consider all the cognitive steps required to read music.