The Neuroscience of Music series has explored way in which early childhood music education can help to develop skills from a Wish List that parents have shared regarding Behavior, School Skills, and Creativity. This fourth and final installment of the Creativity Wish List explores ways that music influences children to love nature.
As our environment changes in dramatic and unprecedented ways, many parents wish to instill in their children an appreciation for the delicate balance between our activity and its impact on nature. They wish to encourage a respect for nature that can be carried on to the next generation. Nationally recognized Neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter points out that a nature-based early childhood music curriculum is an ideal way to provide inspiration for the wonders of nature through music, and “it offers a wonderful foundation for helping children take their place at the forefront of tomorrow’s environmental problem solvers.”
Musikgarten Founder, Dr. Lorna Heyge explains that through simply interacting with nature in simple ways such as feeling the warmth of the sun or the cool wind, children are turning sensory experiences into cognition. Complex concepts made simple through nature, such as the life cycle of a dandelion, are providing children access to vital pathways to learning. Here are some ways that parents and early childhood music educators can inspire their children to love nature:
How music can inspire infants and toddlers to love nature
- Start by building trust in infants so that they become open to fresh experiences when their interest is high. Singing to them is a great way to do this. With parents, it is a trial and error process where they learn how their child best receives new stimuli, whether it is delight through surprises, bouncing and repeated movement songs, or soothing lullabies with gentle motions. Because children have different unique temperament, there is no one correct approach.
- Taking cues about their comfort level gradually expose your infant or toddler to simple sounds in nature such as birds singing, the rustling of leaves in the wind, or the feel of sand on their hands at the beach. If the stimulus becomes overwhelming for them, a soothing song will often calm them down and help to ensure that it was not remembered as a traumatic experience.
Using music to inspire a love of nature in preschoolers and beginning school age children
- With 3 and 4 year old children you can begin to place an element of time to their awareness of nature. For example, families can and often sing about the seasons, reflecting how nature changes along with those seasons and giving them a feel for how the way nature is organized. In addition to the songs you are singing about nature, think about visual and tactile elements to introduce, such as leaves, rocks, and even snowflakes.
- Children enjoy the slowness of nature since it matches their brain’s natural tempo.
Take opportunities to expose them to nature such as trail walks, going to the beach, or simply having a picnic at the park. This not only gives them the opportunity to enjoy nature at their own pace, but also has a great calming effect on parents. Learning to be mindful in nature is a gift that will last children a lifetime while making them better stewards of the environment when they grow older.
This final installment of the Neuroscience of Music series is fitting because of the profound inspiration that nature has had on Musikgarten and its curriculum. As summed up by Audrey Sillick, co-author of Musikgarten and whose vision of the role of nature in the lives of children that inspired Musikgarten , “There is no more meaningful time than early childhood to develop relationships with the living world of plants and animals – as well as to inspire the young human’s spontaneous response to music, dance, and the arts. This is true for the best of all reasons – it is who we are.” Dr. Heyge confirms the sentiment with the declaration that “Musikgarten has made an unparalleled commitment to instilling a love of nature in children.”
*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.