Active listening to bells, bells, bells

In this series of blog postings, we’re having fun with bells.  For the next few postings, we’ll focus on LISTENING !   Intentional listening helps us focus our attention on the aspects of the sounds we hear, and be able to tell the difference between sounds, much like we recognize our own child’s voice from any others.  This is an incredibly important skill in all areas of life, and must be developed through practice.  Of course, music makes it engaging and fun. 

For young children it is often helpful to listen with your whole body. 

  • Listen to the sound of a specific type of bell.   We will start with bells you may have at home.  Starting with sound that are familiar allows the child to review what they already know so they can connect their current understanding to the new shapes and sounds that will be presented. 
  • Creating the sound and feeling the real instrument while it vibrates is the best choice for building a foundation of discriminating sounds.   Let the child HOLD it, and CREATE.
  • Using our bodies to move like the bell, or our mouths to sound like the bell is an important part of intentional listening, since we have to attend well enough to copy the sound and movement.


Ding Dong – Let your child RING your doorbell, then both of you try to recreate the sound verbally.  If you are up to the task, take the cover off the door bell, and show them how it works – that is if your doorbell actually uses a bell.  Many these days are a digital sound, which may be good to hear – but not to see.


Does your child have a bike bell?  Well, then they most likely have a lot of experience ringing it.  If not, take a trip to your local bike shop to check out all the bike bells that are available ! 

Fun, Fun !!!


Most children love the bright shiny ring-a-ling sound of the jingle bells.  If you have some jingle bells, bring them out for your child to explore. 

If you don’t, they are easy to find at Walmart or a craft store.  For now, just buy the larger bells (they make a better sound) and enjoy listening to them in the bag.  Then let the child explore it in their hands.  In another posting, we’ll explore ways to make jingle bell instruments, and have a lot more jingle bell fun !


Most children are also familiar with this type of bell, typically called wind chimes.  This video shows a large assortment of styles, and simply the sound of all of them together.

Do you have a wind chime at home your child can try?  If not, head over to a store near you to listen to the wonderful chime sounds.  Here in Lakeland, I would recommend Brooke Pottery.  But many times you can find them in most hardware stores.  Wind chimes are also a simple craft to make with your child.

Different types of bells will be presented in each of the following postings in this series, and some videos will be available to hear the sounds, and/or how these bells are used.  For our purpose here, we will focus on the classic bell shapes with ringers on the inside or out.  And I have organized them from the smallest to the largest bells.  After all my research, I believe I must divide it up into separate blog postings.  Although I am presenting them all in one day, take it at a pace that is right for you and your child, perhaps one type of bell a day.  With your older child, you might look at all of them as an overview, then explore them all more personally throughout the next few weeks.

In our Kindermusik classes, we explore many types of bells and compare the sounds, and use appropriate bells for different songs and activities.  Come join the fun and learning by checking out the types of classes offered on my website, then contact me to learn more.

I’d LOVE to hear how you and your child are exploring these sounds.  PLEASE SHARE !   Is your child starting to recognize the difference between the sounds of the bells?


Christmas Bells – The Sound of Pure Love

Bells for hundreds of years have served many purposes.  Bells call people to worship and prayer.  They sound warnings and alarms.  They beckon ships to safe harbors.  They celebrate birth and new life, and they peal in announcement of death.  They are rung during Christmas to announce the arrival of the season, to proclaim the birth of Christ.

I loved this description from the website,     

Ringing of bells can be traced back to pagan winter celebrations. During those times, noisemakers were used to scare away evil spirits in the night. Among those early noisemakers were bells. People had fun ringing the bells and making noise. It was too much fun to just use bells to scare demons away. So over time, bell ringing was incorporated into other events and activities. Bells are rung at churches to call people to gather, as warnings, and to bring people together to make announcements.

From these ancient roots, the ringing of bells began to be used in the Christian Christmas season. The soft, cheerful tones blended well and enhanced the sounds of the season. Today, they play an important, traditional role during the holiday.

Carolers soon began bringing bells to accompany their voices, both hand bells and jingle bells were used.  It became such a tradition, a song was written about it.  In this video, Nat King Cole sings a smooth-as-butter version of  “Christmas Bells are Ringing”.

In the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, a ringing bell is associated with an angel earning his wings – sharing the idea that it is a celebration of personal growth.  You might incorporate that idea by having a bell in your home that is rung whenever anyone in the family achieves personal growth.

Here in our midst, as well as around the world, there are many who struggle every day.  The bells they hear at Christmas brings them hope, in Christ, and in some much needed help from those who can give.  Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote a song “Bells Are Ringing” to help draw our attention to those in need.  It is a beautiful song, and a touching video.

When you hear the bells of the Salvation Army, keep in mind that each of those people ringing the bells are giving of their time to be there, and that the money raised is as important NOW as it has ever been. 

Let the sound of the bell ring in your heart as the sound of celebration, the sound of hope, … the sound of pure love.

Timbre / SOUND Experiences for young children

QuinnTimbre (pronounced “tam-ber”) is the distinctive quality of a sound.  During the last few weeks in all the Kindermusik classes, we have experienced many different timbres.  We’ve listened to the sounds of different types of bells, paper bags, a variety of wooden instruments, multitudes of drums (played with the hand to get a better variety of sounds), and much more.  The Young Child class has been using different timbres to represent the sounds of animals during a story song. 

The little ones in our class are developing their own “vocabulary” of timbres.  Just as we recognize the importance of developing a large spoken vocabulary, it is important for us to recognize the importance of developing a similar vocabulary for sounds.  This will help children tune in to subtle distinctions in both music and speech.   


Why build a vocabulary of sounds?

  1. Improves interest and ability to hear, distinguish, and recognize sounds, even when the sound maker is not visible.  (Like knowing Mommy’s voice.)
  2. Helps them understand the relationship between the feel and look of an object to the sound it makes.  Bigger things make deeper sounds, smaller things make higher sounds.
  3. Allows them to recognize that even though something may look the same, it may sound different (if different objects are inside it).  Or that things that look different may sound very much the same.  It builds generalization skills.
  4. Research shows that as the variety of sounds in an environment increases, the more the child is interested in making new sounds themselves, allowing them to explore more fully all the sounds they can make.  This in turn has a huge effect on their ability to articulate words when it is time.
  5. old ladyThe neural connections they are building with these basic sounds are the foundation of knowledge, on which they can expand as they develop.  Recognition of a metal sound, leads to recognition of a horn sound, and on to a saxophone sound, and on to a tenor saxophone sound, and on to the specific style a particular artist on the saxophone.
  6. And finally, it leads to a lifetime of enjoyment in making music.  This lady seems to continue to enjoy even in her later years!

 How can I help my baby learn this?   Provide a basket in a popular play location that will hold 2 – 4 objects that make a variety of sounds.  If possible, have some objects that look the same but sound different, such as similar containers with different materials inside.  Or similar objects (wood) that have subtly different sounds.  Keep the same objects in the basket until the child’s interest in what’s in the basket just starts to lessen, then switch them out for totally different objects. (don’t wait until they’re bored, but don’t switch it when they are still fascinated by them).  For the younger babies, keep a few sound makers next to the changing table, especially those that can be worn on their hands, such as “mittens” or “bracelets”, or on a “mobile” they can tap. 

To be able to gain the maximum benefit from this play, the baby should be able to explore ALL the different sounds an object makes (often with your help).  Equally important is exploring the object through their other senses:  What does it look like?  What does it feel like?  What is the texture?  What does it taste like?  Is it heavy or light?  Which parts move?  What movement makes the sound?    Of course they are not asking these questions, but their explorations answer them.  This “learning” is enhanced greatly if an important partner talks about all these things while the baby is exploring.

How can I help my OLDER CHILD learn this?

Children 1 – 2 really enjoy exploring the sounds in a kitchen.  Clean your floor, then partner with your child to pull out items from the cupboard, plastic, metal, etc.  (glass, only when supervised with a parent to ensure safety.), as well as a variety of mallets from kitchen drawers, wooden, metal, etc.  Cutting boards make great sounds. 

picnic baskets

I like to keep a picnic basket full of kitchen sounds so that I don’t have to continue to clean each item after they play with it on the kitchen floor.

Children 2 and older love to MAKE their own instruments.  Are they most interested in making something they can TAP, something they can SHAKE, or something they can RUB.  THEN MAKE TWO – help them find a way to make two of the same type of instrument, but that makes different sounds.

All ages of children love to explore the different sounds that their mouth and voice can make, as well as how they can use their body as a sound making device.  Explore the different sounds you can make in these ways.  Make it a copycat game:  one person makes a set of sounds with their body or mouth, and the other person has to copy what the first person did.  Take turns.  OR hide behind some barrier, and allow the other person to guess how that sound was made.  This is also a wonderful way to improve their listening skills.

There are several previous blog postings that include ideas for your family to explore timbre

Refer to homemade instrument blog postings:

What part does Kindermusik play in this development?  

Kindermusik class is a perfect venue for offering your child the opportunity to experience a wide variety of sounds–drums, egg shakers, baby bells, woodblocks, singing, speaking, plus the host of wonderful and diverse sounds on the recordings!  Kindermusik is the best choice you can make for your child, again and again!