The Airplane Song: Using Props to Connect with Children
The longer I have worked as a music therapist, especially in the early childhood setting, the more I appreciate the value of movement props like those created by Bear Paw Creek! I feel like they have really added to the fun and learning and promoted positive social experiences in both my childcare and community-based early childhood music classes.
Both of these settings require that I find a way to engage children of a range of ages, personalities, and developmental levels. From a music therapist perspective and as an advocate for inclusion, I love that props do not require language skills to be used or enjoyed. Children who are very young or otherwise non-verbal can still successfully engage with the group without having to speak. You can promote choice by giving a child the option between different color scarves and encourage self-expression by recognizing how a child interacts with a scarf (Sarah is waving hers up high!).
Since receptive language develops before expressive language, both verbal and non-verbal children can learn or practice directional words as the group leader or their caregiver asks them and models how to move their scarves up, down, in front, behind, etc. For the children who are verbal, it gives them a chance to tell you about what color they have, how they are moving it, or what body part it is covering.
Stretchy Bands Can Also Promote Social Interaction in a Low-Stress Way
A tool like the connect-a-band or stretchy band can also promote social interaction in a low-stress way. During a classic favorite like Ring Around the Rosie, some children simply are not comfortable holding anyone’s hand other than their caregiver. A connect-a-band not only helps structure the movement by making a natural circle, it literally “connects” the group members with each other without the pressure of physical touch.
For children with sensory issues, this is also a plus as it provides social interaction, interesting sensory input, and can be a pre-curser to physical contact like holding hands. I love the flexibility that the connect-a-band can be used in both large and small group settings. When used during the song Row Your Boat, I’ve seen it build interpersonal connections among the numerous participants of a family music and literacy event or simply the more intimate bond between a parent and child.
“Rocket Ship Run” and “Airplane Song” Activity Suggestion
I find myself planning the use of movement props into almost every group, whether it be the connect-a-band, scarves, bean bags, streamers, parachute, or balloon ball. When children have something literally in their hand, it makes music an even more “hands-on” experience, and what better way to learn than through doing!
Most recently, I used scarves and the connect-a-band with some Laurie Berkner Band Songs during a transportation theme. The scarves were our rockets that went “blast off!” into the air during “Rocketship Run” and helped us creatively move during the dancing portion.
For “The Airplane Song,” the connect-a-band served as our airplane, as we went to see the world, practiced getting in and out, took turns leading, and moved in lots of fun ways! You could use a big connect-a-band for a large group or single ones for “family planes.”