The Best Idea for Making Musical Friends: Preschool Music Camp Part 1

Learning piano can be such an isolated activity, particularly if you are the only child in your family taking lessons and if none of your friends have started lessons yet. These are the circumstances for several of my preschool piano students. All of my preschool students love coming to lessons, but previously they didn’t have any friends who were also taking private lessons.

I feel it is important to incorporate a social and collaborative element in student’s musical studies. With this goal in mind, I decided to organize two four day summer camps for my preschool students. Each camp day was an hour in length and we played musical games and learned many basic musical skills. I even introduced middle C and these students still remember where middle C is on the staff even though they had not previously had any exposure to middle C!

If you have always considered hosting a camp, but weren’t sure what to do or are looking for new ideas to use with your camp or upcoming group class stay tuned because over the next several weeks I will cover some of the fun games we played at the camp. Even if you don’t do camps or host group lessons, many of these games can be used for private lessons with just a few minor changes.

One of the primary skills I covered in the camp was preparing to teach middle C and learning middle C.Preparing Preschoolers about Middle C

Before introducing middle C to my students I wanted to lay a solid foundation for staff awareness skills. The students attending the camp were already familiar with the lines and spaces on the staff and high and low on the staff. I thought that before learning middle C we should discuss the middle of the staff. Below are two games we played to learn about the middle of the staff and middle of the keyboard.

1st Game: Listening for high middle and low sounds with the floor keyboard:

One of the resources I use most often with preschoolers is my vinyl floor keyboard. This keyboard is sturdy enough for children to walk on and has an unlimited number of uses. I am always thinking of new ways to use my floor keyboard. I would highly recommend investing in a vinyl floor keyboard if you can, but if you do not have a vnyl keyboard available you may substitute by providing each child with a small personal printed keyboard and markers to place on the keyboard (such as pennies) instead of using their bodies.

Directions for play:

Remind students what high and low sounds sound like and ask them if the middle of the piano sounds different. (Most students will notice a difference but if they don’t you can prompt them with descriptive words such as birds are high and elephants are low, but middle is different it sounds like puppy dogs etc.)

Place the vinyl keyboard on the floor. Instruct students to listen to the sounds they hear you play and move to the appropriate places on the keyboard while you play at the piano.

Note: If you have never used a vinyl keyboard before, you may need to show young children where high medium and low are on the vinyl keyboard. You can also place pictures of things high medium and low such as birds, puppies, and elephants, in the proper location on the keyboard to serve as helpful reminders.

2nd Game: Pin the note on the staff board

I recommend students playing this game already have an understanding of high and low on the staff, but they do not need to know any specific note names. For this game you will need a large staff board you can either hang or tape on the wall. I traced a large staff from my floor staff onto butcher paper and taped it to the wall. You will also need several notes with tape on the back so that they stick to the staff. I cut circles out of card stock for this and placed a piece of blue painters tape on the back of each note as this tape removes easily from most items. Before starting this game, I bridged from the vinyl floor staff to this game by talking about where middle was on the staff. I showed each child where middle was and asked them to place a note in the middle of the staff.

Directions for play:

Tie a bandanna around each child’s eyes so they cannot see. When it is each child’s turn, gently spin them in a small circle (I held the young children’s hands while doing this!) and then ask them to try and place their note on the middle of the staff.  Then allow each child to take their bandanna off and tell you if they placed the note in the middle of the staff. This game was one of the most popular ones on day three of our camp!

Stay tuned for the next part of camp games where I introduced middle C on the staff.

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