Sure, recorded songs for preschoolers, such as those produced by Play School, The Wiggles, and other children’s performers, are fantastic when you need to entertain children.

But do they have a place in early learning classes that bring children and adults together to experience making music? 

Do recorded songs made for toddlers have the same flexibility as live music created by a teacher in class?

You can probably already guess what our answer is for that! Here at Sounds Like This, interactive music making is always better than recorded children’s music.* 

Something special happens when adults and children make music together.

When your educators and your children explore the sounds they and their instruments and props create, they can take the music in whatever direction they wish. They can raise or lower the pitch, speed up or slow down the beat. 

When they create with their voices or instruments, they can use their imaginations. Their experience of music is ACTIVE, rather than passive.

*Of course, when you’re just looking for background music, we LOVE to see educators use high-quality recorded music featuring real instruments within their settings. Not stereotypical ‘children’s music’ but REAL music: folk, classical, jazz, rock — the more varied the better!

An illustrated woman dancing with her child with the quote "Something happens when adults and children make music together"

 

We shouldn’t use recorded toddler songs for early learning music classes. Here’s why…

Of course, recorded music has a place in our lives. How else would we be able to enjoy full symphony orchestras flooding our lounge rooms with brilliant walls of sound?

(I highly recommend Mars from The Planets by Holst), and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in all its harmonic richness, while dancing in your underpants in a Tom-Cruise-from-Risky-Business fashion, with or without a hairbrush microphone. Anyone… Anyone? Too much?)

Recorded songs just don’t have a place in your music sessions, where your little charges are exploring the sounds an instrument can create. Where they’re discovering how they can make music with instruments. Where they are finding their own voice.

Here’s why.

To start, research has proven over and over again the incredible brain-changing benefits of music making in early childhood development — in gross motor development and language development and a whole host of other things. 

(Also read 5 Ways Your Preschooler Will Benefit from Music Classes for Kids). 

Sounds Like This educator Julie holding a toy microphone to a smiling boy in a group of 6 children.

But these benefits typically only happen when a child engages in ACTIVE music making. In musical exploration. 

With the prescribed tempo (speed) of a recorded soundtrack, children have no opportunity to see what happens when they make the music faster or slower, or when they change the beat from a slow dum-dum, to a fast rat-a-tat-tat.

Even a baby will discover that they can make different sounds with a shaker egg, depending on how they hold it and how fast or slow they shake it. They can’t do that with recorded music.

Recorded music can be wonderfully entertaining and allows us to enjoy our favourite songs on replay (perhaps a little TOO much on replay?). And as adults, recorded music helps us experience a huge variety of instrumentation, genres, timbres, and textures. 

It has a place in every home, every car. But it does not have a place in every music class.

An old-school cassette player alongside the quote "pre-recorded music has a place in every home and every car but not in every music class

Why interactive music making beats recorded songs for toddlers, every time.

In active music making classes, unlimited by a recorded soundtrack, informed educators can follow the lead of the child and let the rest of the class follow along.

When children lead and educators follow, children gain power over the sounds they make with their bodies and instruments. A group of children playing on drums can set the tempo themselves and lead the educators to follow them. 

When children come together to make music, they can explore and bring their own experiences into play. Nobody is telling them how a tambourine must sound. Nobody is telling them what the bells can do. 

The child explores their voice and any instruments and takes their exploration further each time they use them. 

A high energy group of children might choose to bang the drums loudly and run around. On a quieter day, everyone might want to lie down and have a relaxing experience of a song sung slowly. This kind of unaccompanied and play-based learning is incredibly flexible.

The teacher can also suggest (demonstrate) a different beat and see if the children can adapt to the change. 

Even when the educator’s voice leads, she can be sensitive to the children’s imaginations as they explore ‘what can be done and what can be changed’, rather than following a prescribed, preset list of “songs for toddlers”.

Informed teachers can set the pitch to suit developing voices. This is imperative for good vocal health, and will teach singing, rather than droning or shouting.

The best kindergarten songs to perform together, LIVE

Music brings so many benefits to your classrooms. And the truth is, it doesn’t take a lot to upskill your educators and empower them to bring informed, skilled music making into your classroom (psst. We’ve got that covered for you). 

But the rewards of child-led musical play is huge, both for the children and for your educators. Still, in case you needed a little extra inspiration, here are some of our favourite music-making activities and songs for kindergartens, preschools, and other early learning settings.

Bubbles

There are so many benefits of bubble play for young children so we love to combine it with our music making.

I Wonder What Your Name Is

This is a call and response song we use in our own kinder music classes to encourage our kids to sing.

Somebody’s Knocking at My Door

This delightful song teaches children about beats and encourages them to get involved with instruments or by clapping their hands.

Hello & Goodbye Songs

You don’t have to confine music making to a particular kids music session during the day. In fact, we love to blend music with everything we do! Our ankle biters love these Hello and Goodbye songs when they’re joining or finishing up our classes. 

Our favourite recorded songs to play for toddlers

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not against recorded children’s music. We’re just a bit picky with what we think is worth exposing our own kids to (and sometimes, you really do just need a little break).

Here is a list of some really great songs for children. Although they’re awesome, you still won’t find them in our classes. But they’re fun, so check ‘em out!

Teenie Tiny Stevies

Went to their concert and wanted to join the band!

Two men and two women (including Julie from Sounds Like This) smiling at the camera. Julie and the two men all have children on their shoulders.

Music for Kiddos

Stephanie Leavell is a fabulous music therapist from the US with the sweetest Halloween song ever (among many others). 

Big Block Sing Song

Justine Clarke

Josh Pyke and Justine Clarke also have this beautiful song…

Holly Throsby

Her album, See!, is wonderful.

Eric Herman’s Cool Tunes for Kids

Especially The Elephant Song.

The Muppets

My kid’s picks are The Muppets doing Bohemian Rhapsody and Popcorn.

Ready for heart-growing, brain-changing and bond-building music making in your classroom?

So when you’re thinking about bringing music into your classroom, consider this…

Do you just want to sit and sing along to pre-recorded music?

Or do you want your early learning centre to provide heart-growing, brain-changing, and bond-building experiences by exploring the world of music you and your charges can create together?

Download our 5-minute Guide to Effective Music-Making in Your Early Learning Setting and start making joyful music in your classroom today.

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