Updated: Jul 26
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Private piano lessons with 4 and 5 year olds are so much fun when you get to bring stuffed animals into play.
At these ages, we are building the foundation of technique in the hands, as well as recognizing simple patterns of music through an understanding of rhythm, aural and visual.
If you are not familiar with Piano Safari Friends, I highly recommend checking out their Facebook Group page!
It is an amazing resource to teach very young children through a fun rote and aural experience, specific to learning the piano.
At Piano Safari Friends, Tall Giraffe, Leo the Lion and Charlie Chipmunk are super friendly musical friends that are always part of lessons.
The student greets them at the start of lessons, and we play a simple "Time to Wake Up, friends!" game to reinforce our lion paw technique (heavy arm weight) with whichever rhythm animal we are going to focus on learning for the day.. The student practices sounding a rich tone with this activity as they try to wake up their animal friend(s).
"Playground Fun", is one of the beginning rote pieces in the book where the student is being challenge to remember and aurally execute a short AABA music form.
This piece also utilizes the note range from C - G, even though the student has only formally learnt the locations of C and D. Pitch-wise, the student is now exploring by rote how tones are moving up and down.
There are various ways to reinforce the aural learning of this piece. After clapping the rhythms, or singing and moving along to the music, these short repeating rhythmic phrases can be easily taught using our stuffed animal friends.
As I ask the student to copy my singing, I use the animal friends to help reinforce the rhythms. For example, the first music phrase is four quarter notes and a whole note - "Cha-rlie-Chip-munk , Roar! - 2 -3-4".
Bouncing the animals with our singing helps with the gross motor action of executing the rhythm. When the student is ready, I will instruct to find C on the piano, and play the same rhythm using finger number 2 (fine motor action).
We continue on the next phrase on the next key, D. Then the pattern changes, and we bring in Tall Giraffe on E and F. Lastly, a descending pentascale starting on G with the same rhythm we used at the very beginning.
As we work on repeating the excercise, I have found it very successful using the stuffed animals to get the student to remember which pattern comes first.
Sometimes, I would bounce them without singing along to help them memorize the piece as slowly ease off their dependence on my verbal instruction. This challenges the child to really hear what should come next.
This pedagogical approach sets up the student for a fun and successful learning experience. If you use Piano Safari Friends, I would love to hear your ideas and comments on how it has worked for you!
For the best stuffed animals to add to your Piano Safari teaching method, Amazon.ca has a great plenty to choose from! These are our favourites we have purchased from Amazon: