Exploring Sound

From the beginning children are interested in sound. They love to listen to their parents' voices. They like to listen to the rhythm of the sound of words. They are fascinated with music. So, it is important for adults to provide them with lots of opportunity to listen to speech, music, and sound, as well as to experiment with making sounds.

The materials below help draw children's conscious attention to the different attributes of sound.

Sound Cylinders

Children have always enjoyed shakers and rattles. The sound cylinders are filled with different substances, so that each gives a different sound when shaken. One shaker may contain rice, another salt, or beans, etc. In order to keep the children's attention focused on listening to sounds, each cylinder is sealed so the children don't get distracted by taking the shakers apart. Initially, six shakers are provided in a box. Children can take out the shakers and listen to the sound that each makes.


After listening to the sounds of the various shakers, children can be given two matching sets of shakers. The two sets are distinguished by color. Usually, one set is color coded red, while the other is color coded blue.

With two matching sets of sound cylinders, the challenge is to find the cylinders in one set that match the cylinders in the other set. For example, a child tries to find a blue cylinder that sounds like a red cylinder. Having found two cylinders that make the same sound, the child then places them together and tries to find two other cylinders that sound the same.

In the beginning a child is usually given only three cylinders out of each set so as to not become overwhelmed. After the child gets the idea, the child can work with a complete set, consisting of six blues and six reds.

Loud and Soft

When children can discriminate and match sounds successfully, they enjoy taking one set of cylinders and attempting to place them in a sequence from loud to soft.

The Silence Game

Children also enjoy playing a game called "The Silence Game" in which they try to see how quiet they can be. A group of children all try to be very quiet. They listen to see if they can hear any sounds. They then can share with the group sound they may have heard. They may have heard each other moving slightly. So, they will probably enjoy trying again and attempting to be so still that they don't make any sound at all.

Children always enjoy challenges. Once they are attending to sound, they will enjoy attempting to carry things like chairs without making a sound. It is very hard to lift, carry, and the place a chair without making a sound. This can be a fun activity for a small group of children.

The Bells

When children have developed their ability to distinguish between fine differences in sound, and they can organize a group of sound cylinders in a sequence from loud to soft or soft to loud, and understand the concepts of loud, louder, loudest, and soft, softer, and softest, they are ready to begin to distinguish between differences in pitch.

The bells are a beautiful material designed to help children explore the attribute of sound referred to as pitch. The bells are designed to look alike. They are all the same height and appear to be the same size. In reality, they vary in thickness, which gives them each a different pitch. Each bell represents a note in the musical scale.

To begin, children learn to ring each bell and listen to its beautiful tone.


Tone Bars

Another set of materials which provides an opportunity for children to explore pitch is the tone bars. As children listen to the pitch made by the bells or the bars, they can pair them by placing units together that make the same pitch, and later they can sequence them and make a musical scale.




Music Listening Station

In addition to having materials with which children can interact to explore the nature of sound, it is important to provide them opportunities to purposely listen to music. For this purpose, headphones in a listening station are provided along with a music library from which children can choose selections of music to which they would like to listen. Since young children have not yet formed opinions about music, it is important to expose them to a variety of musical styles and music from different periods. The adults should select music which represents the very best of each style.


Musical Development

Music is more than an auditory experience. It is an emotional experience and a language of expression. It is a way to relax and enjoy oneself, either alone or socially. It has always been an integral part of social occasions, traditions, and rituals. In recent years research has shown that beautiful music (like that of Mozart) can serve as a valuable stress reducer, therapy, and also can work as an important building block and organizer of the central nervous system. Thus, it is very important that children have an opportunity to develop their ear and their musical intelligence. This is only accomplished through activity. The above materials help provide activities which help lay part of the foundation. However, children also need to engage in singing, dancing, and rhythm activities. They need to experiment with playing various instruments and even learn to make each of the basic types of musical instruments.


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