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Month: November 2020

Itsy Bitsy Spider First Piano Song

Itsy Bitsy Spider is a great first piano song. Young children are very excited to learn to play a song they know.  I love teaching preschoolers this familiar song, because their ear will guide them as they learn which notes to play.  Children naturally know where the long and short sounds are in the song because they can sing the song.  Often, young children only need to be shown which piano keys need to be played, or they can learn by seeing the alphabet letters.

Traditional piano lessons require students to learn to read notation.  Learning to read notes is important, but many other experiences are more important than note reading when teaching preschool students.

Is learning to read music hard for beginners?

When reading music notation, a lot of things must happen simultaneously.

  • Students must identify the note name on the music staff.
  • They need to know which piano key the note on the paper corresponds to. 
  • Students must also recognize the note value.
  • There is a finger number associated with that note.
  • Students have to make their finger cooperate and press the piano key.

Reading the notation, figuring out which piano key it refers to, and then pressing the correct piano key with the correct finger for the correct amount of time… Whew! This is a lot! And this is difficult! But it is even more difficult for preschoolers. So how can we make this simpler? Let’s focus on the music alphabet. 

What is the music alphabet?

What is the music alphabet?  The music alphabet is A, B, C, D, E, F, G.  That’s it.  Each letter coordinates to a white key that is positioned between other white and black keys.  The piano keyboard is set up as a repeating pattern. When you know the name of the white key, it is identical up and down the keyboard.

Why is the music alphabet beneficial to preschoolers?

Many students are eager to play songs they know. Often these songs are more difficult than the preschooler’s ability to read notes. But, because their ear can guide them, preschoolers can easily learn songs using the music alphabet letters.

Children want to feel successful from the very beginning.  They want to play songs they know, AND they don’t want to wait years to play these songs. Kids can reap the benefits of music early! Often, teachers feel familiar songs are too advanced or beyond the student’s reading ability. What they don’t realize is that there is more than one way to teach the piano. And to get preschoolers playing songs they are excited to learn means we should teach what they already know… the ABC’s.

How can children benefit from playing familiar songs?

If the first piano song a preschooler learns is a familiar one like Itsy Bitsy Spider, children can springboard from that song. Meaning… they can build upon what they learned from that song and creatively learn many new things. They can take a rhythm pattern from the song to play musical instruments or use the pattern to make a new song. They can create more verses to the story. They can explore the sounds on the piano by having the spider crawl up the piano. They can learn about the spider’s web and learn to play a glissando on the piano as a spider would go down its dropline. There are so many ways to springboard from this first piano song.

Are there songs for my preschooler?

One of the biggest requests I have seen from parents and piano teachers who desire to teach preschoolers is the lack of music available to teach. Teachers are begging for simple first piano songs, coloring pages, activity pages, and games that reinforce the concepts beginners are learning. 

At this age, children need so much repetition. Additional activity pages and games allow children to experience the lesson over and over in new ways which help them internalize the ideas being taught.

Where can I find piano music for my preschooler?

First Piano Song

Most preschool methods only teach a concept once, expecting a child to learn it and understand it in one week. But preschoolers need more time. They need more repetition. These methods also focus primarily on note reading. But, because most kids this age are not ready to learn to read, focusing on note reading seems silly. Let’s let young children explore the piano and figure out songs using the abilities they already have which includes knowing the alphabet.

My own preschool students rush through the door excited to show me a song they figured out at home… a first song, like Baby Shark or Chop Sticks. They want to play songs they know.

I decided to create preschool piano activities that are different. First piano songs which allow children to learn and re-learn all the foundational skills that need time to be mastered. Every time a new song is introduced, they can re-learn, remember, go into greater details and have new games and worksheets to explore.

Itsy Bitsy Spider is a wonderful first piano song. The song is introduced using alphabet letters. Activities and games included in the pack help teach and reinforce all the basic skills of the first year piano student. Because these skills are repeated as they learn additional songs, there is less of a progression, but more of an introduction, repetition, and mastery, while children are doing what they love… learning songs they already know.

Are Reading Based Piano Lessons Good for Preschoolers?

I have spent years watching preschool piano materials emerge to the forefront of piano teaching.  Having taught from every single early beginner method,  I have one thing to say.  No matter how cute and colorful the pages are, preschool piano methods emphasize note reading. So are reading based piano lessons good for preschoolers?

I believe the answer lies in the teacher (or parent).  If a teacher understands preschool ability, they can craft the piano lesson for success.  But sadly, many people teaching preschool piano do not understand that preschool piano lessons should look radically different than 9 or 10 year old beginner lessons.  Many teachers only teach out of the book which is flat and 2 dimensional.  Preschool children are creative and need more 3-D experiences along with their lesson book.  Preschoolers learn best by moving. They also want to play songs they already know.

Are piano lessons worth it?

I am a big believer that children learn best through play.  And while you can follow the outline of a book, there should be lots and lots of other activities that reinforce what is being taught in the book, laying the foundation for future concepts being taught in the book. Reading based piano lessons ARE good if they include:

  • Movement Music: clapping, stepping, hopping, etc
  • Playing instruments
  • Learning to keep a steady beat
  • Games teaching right hand and left hand
  • Creative play at the piano (i.e. making bird sounds, elephant walking sounds, etc)
  • Learning basic rhythm patterns
  • Soft and loud sounds
  • Finger identification
  • Finger and hand strengthening
  • Activities that strengthen fine motor skills
  • Learning keyboard geography
  • Use of materials that de-emphasize success by completing a book
  • Singing and matching pitches
  • Counting
  • Pattern play
  • Learning the music alphabet
  • Learning songs using the alphabet letters
  • Learning songs by watching someone else play the piano
  • Playing games away from the piano bench

Should my child take piano lessons?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents and teachers actually acknowledged that learning and enjoying piano playing doesn’t have to fit in a one-size-fits-all mold and that preschoolers are learning without homework and formal lessons. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if preschoolers could play more and practice as their interest allows?

There is fear in the piano teaching world that parents will realize they can teach from the lesson book themselves.  This is true. 

I am a huge fan of parents teaching preschool piano to their own child for many reasons. Here are 10 ways parents can get your child ready for piano lessons.  But the top reason for this belief is that when a parent isn’t paying for piano lessons, there is less pressure on the preschooler.  The child can learn music concepts creatively, naturally explore the piano, play games, and just enjoy making music. 

When parents pay for lessons, they feel children must practice at home practice like older students do. This is where the piano experience begins to melt down for preschoolers. Really! Preschoolers can take soccer lessons, gymnastics, swimming, and other types of lessons without a requirement of daily practice. Is there value in the lesson itself? Children DO learn in the piano lesson. So why do teachers and parents expect a requirement of daily practice with preschool piano lessons?

Are reading-based piano methods good for preschoolers?

Are reading based piano lessons good for preschoolers?  It depends.  It depends on parents and teachers meeting the needs of the child and allowing children the freedom to enjoy making music at the piano with fun activities and lots of reinforcement of concepts that don’t demand mastery.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if parents and teachers actually acknowledged that learning piano doesn’t have to fit in a one-size-fits-all mold and that preschoolers can learn without formal lessons and practice requirements. Not all children are ready to read in preschool. Using reading based methods may not be the right fit for every preschool child.

Where can I find Preschool Piano Resources?

Reading Based Piano Lessons

Because I have taught from all the different preschool piano methods, I know where they fall short. As I read Facebook community pages discuss preschool piano, I was frustrated that so many teachers demand that preschoolers learn in the same way that a 10 year old would learn. So I finally decided to create the resources I wish I had when I first began teaching preschool piano.

This includes teaching children to play more songs (especially songs preschoolers know and love), activities, and games. Repetition, repetition, and more repetition is what children love and helps them master the basics.  The topics currently taught in most preschool piano methods are covered, so parents and teachers can overlap, find more supplementary materials, and create a more balanced approach to preschool piano lessons.

I hope this article helps you decide if preschool piano is right for your child, know what to look for in a piano teacher, or helps you feel encouraged to play piano games with your child at home.  Here are links for more information on why I created this blog, what I hope parents will get out of my blog, and top resources for teaching your child piano at home, and piano games you can play with your child.

Christmas Gifts that Prepare Preschoolers for Piano Lessons

Many parents of preschoolers want their child to learn to play a musical instrument. Piano is often thought of as an approachable instrument for young children. This article will list fun, educational toys that make great Christmas Gifts that can help prepare preschoolers for piano lessons. These toys all help develop finger strength, hand strength, and fine motor skills and spark imagination and creativity– which are important in piano playing.

Preschoolers have small hands. Many children don’t have developed strength in their hands and fingers so they are not ready for piano lessons. I am amazed at how quickly a child can develop good hand strength with some of these toys – helping prepare preschoolers for piano lessons.

Links on this page may contain affiliate links which means I may make a small commission if you purchase the item through my website (thank you!) at no additional cost to you.

To play the piano preschoolers have to develop fine motor skills. They can do this in many ways: playing outdoors, playing games, coloring and drawing, playing with play dough, etc.

The educational resources below all help develop the fingers and hands of preschoolers in ways that benefit the budding piano player. Best of all, children will have so much fun, they won’t even know that these activities will help them learn to play the piano.

If you discover your child is frustrated by working on fine motor skills, check out my blog post, 15 Toddler Music and Movement Songs. These songs encourage gross motor skills which include large movements like marching, hopping, twisting, clapping. Children love to play musical instruments along with these songs.

Toys That Build Fine Motor Skills

In subsequent blog posts I will be demonstrating how you can use these resources to help your child build fine motor skills and prepare for piano playing.

Sign up for my mailing list! I am offering a free game you can play with your child! “Piano Race Game” is THE game I teach every beginning piano student, and kids ask to play this game over and over. Kids select their favorite tiny little moving pieces (like legos or mini-erasers) and then take turns drawing music alphabet cards that send them racing across the piano keyboard. The moving pieces and small alphabet cards help build fine motor skills as the child draws cards and moves their piece to the next key. Best of all, they are also learning the music alphabet on the piano! Your child will love this game!

Leave me a comment if you have other fun games that your preschooler enjoys that help build fine motor skills. I’d love to add them to the list!

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