“Catching” a Steady Beat with very Young Children

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

 Wishy Washy 1           Wishy Washy 2

 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? 

8 Responses

  1. I have just picked up your website link from a google search on ‘Steady Beat’ to see the extent to which our product links are being listed. It is significant that likewise you put great emphasis on the importance of steady beat with young children as part of the learning process. Here in the UK, our company Lawrence Educational Ltd publishes and markets a publication “Helping Young Children With Steady Beat” by Ros Bayley, one of our authors and a national consultant on early years teaching. We also produce many other steady beat/rap publications and supporting resources including audio CDs with rhymes and raps for use with young children by practitioners.

    Ros also teaches the use of a soft toy resource known as ‘Beat Baby’ (also supplied by us) which has been extrememly successful in engaging children’s emotions in the learning process in conjunction with steady beat activities. The feedback over a number of years has been excellent including some realting to young children with learning difficulties.

    If you are interested you might like to visit our website where you can see images of the resources and listen to some of the audio clips associated with the steady beat raps.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Howard Lawrence
    Lawrence Educational Ltd

  2. Any examples of steady beat????

  3. […] One of the most popular postings on this blog offers some of the best teaching techniques for parents while “Catching A Steady Beat with very Young Children”. […]

  4. […] There are LOTS of ways to experience and practice steady beat:  See my blog posting:  “Catching a Beat” with very young Children. […]

  5. […] The best teaching methods for parents to use, with links to a wide variety of ideas specific to each age group;  babies, walkers, preschoolers. […]

  6. […] There are LOTS of ways to experience and practice steady beat:  See my blog posting:  “Catching a Beat” with very young Children. […]

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  8. […] five: A Parent’s Guide to Beats and Rhythms, Developmental Progression of Steady Beat, and “Catching” a Steady Beat with Very Young Children.  This includes tips like: help your child experience steady beats by singing with them, dancing with […]

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