A STEADY BEAT is an unchanging continuous pulse. This is different from the Rhythm Patterns of a specific song. To illustrate a steady beat, tap with each underlined syllable as you sing the song.
Do you know the Muffin Man, the muffin man, the muffin man.
Do you know the Muffin Man, who lives on Drury Lane.
The ability to keep a steady beat is developed over time, and can be started with very young children. Such skills are not that difficult to learn for persons of any age, but developing a sufficient level of competence requires support from knowledgeable adults as guides, and plenty of opportunities for practice.
A well developed steady beat is required for walking, talking, using a pair of scissors and bouncing a ball, as well as many other abilities. Feeling and moving to steady beat develops a sense of time and the ability to organize and coordinate movements within time.
To understand how Steady Beat relates to Rhythm Patterns, or Melodic Rhythms, OR to understand how MUCH it can benefit a person, please see my more recent posting: Young Children Benefit from Steady Beats and Unique Rhythms.
To understand how a child develops steady beat, please see my more recent posting: The Progression of a Child’s Steady Beat
In this posting, we will focus on the best teaching methods parents can use to help their child develop a steady beat. This specific example is most appropriate for children from 1 - 3 years old. There are other posts that provide a myriad of ideas for developing steady beat with children of specific ages: Babies, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Elementary ages.
Encourage, don’t Impose
Notice how this mother is helping her son learn a new way to keep a beat. She helps his hands swish across each other with his hands going up and down. THEN – she lets go, and continues her motion while focusing on him, watching to see how he chooses to keep the beat. She continues to sing “Wishy Washy Whee” and keep the motion going just in case he looks to her and tries to imitate her actions. WOW! Thanks to this mom for a great example captured by the camera ! I LOVE my Kindermusik moms !!!
Observe, Notice, Question, and Expand - Repeat
(See postings under “Scaffolding” for more details on this method of teaching.)
When adding new skills or concepts, keep in mind the goal of increasing their self-concept as a competent musical person. Try to remember to use these BEST TEACHING METHODS:
- observe first (watch to see what they already know, or if they remember what they learned last time)
- Verbally NOTICE THEIR actions (label, comment, and imitate what they are doing). “You are clapping your hands while I sing.”
- REINFORCE what they are doing. “I LIKE it when you clap the beat. I will sing to the beat of your hands !” (this builds confidence).
- Initiate activities to expand on what they are doing well and are motivated to do. Start by asking questions: “How else can you keep a beat?” At first, you may need to demonstrate and explore two new options: “Can you tap your knees? Can you tap the floor?”. Then when you go back and ask that question again, they will have a working knowledge of 3 choices (even if you have to prompt their choices with words).
- Expand to new concepts: “How fast can you clap your hands?” while you sing to their new beat. “How SLOW…?”
- You can even make connections to help them relate the new concept to one they are familiar with. “You are drumming with two hands together like you do when you make a big splash in the pool !”
- Invite and help them try a new movement, like this mom encouraging her son to keep a beat by swishing his hands. He had not tried it yet
- When ready, ask more open ended questions… “Where else can you tap it?” “How else can you make a beat with your body?” They learn best when the idea comes from within.
- Sit back and watch to see what they have learned. Let the child determine how long to continue the process. If still interested, continue as long as you can…. they are learning. Obviously, let them move on if they are finished processing at that moment.
When did you notice your child was keeping a steady beat with music of any sort?