A rough guide for first-time music practitioners / entertainers on what babies (18 months and under) can do physically and some tips and suggestions to making your session plans.
A useful guide to read is the EYFS, Early Years Foundation Stage which lists what a child can do in every stage of their early life, and how an adult can help them to move on safely to the next developmental stage.In the book it states “Children develop at their own rates, and in their own ways”. It lists the prime and specific Areas of Learning and Development such as making relations and building self confidence and self awareness to listening and attention to speaking, moving…etc. It would be good if you look through the book. It’s useful to focus every lesson plan around one developmental area and sub-area.
Use this as a rough guide and if you are not sure, ask and use your judgment. At about:
- 4 – 6 months they will be making sounds
- 5 months start crawling – some children may skip crawling completely.
- 7 months start standing by holding on to things
- 12 months start walking on their own – and for some it may take longer
- 9 months clapping and gradually they perfect this. Although don’t expect that they can clap the beat to an entire song until much later
- 24 months (two years) to walk and clap at the same time
- 18 months will be saying some words
- 18 months will be very mobile, move around independently and through a ball (or let it fall from their hands)
- 20 months putting words together. Don’t expect them to sing you the whole song but they can shout out a word every now and then and may carry a tune
- 24 months their attention span is short so activities should be around 2 minutes long and gradually as they get older make them longer
- After two years of age expect children to be able to do controlled and simultaneous actions with all limbs, to cross their hands and place them on their thighs, or place one hand on their tummy and one hand on their heads.
- Babies won’t be sharing until well after 30 months old (2,5 y.o.) but will know that some things belong to them and some to others from about 18 months. At this stage it is easier if they share a toy with their practitioners rather than with other children.
- Play hiding games, show pictures, pretend vocabulary (let’s pretend we are frogs), use animals and make funny noises – These are always a hit!
If you are in doubt about what children can do, ask the nursery practitioner of the group you need clarification on.
You are building intention. They will not sing with you loud and clear or clap every time when the song says so but it shouldn’t stop you from working on this verbal and action vocabulary. There is no set date to start developing individuality and self awareness. Babies learn very fast so be patient, they are processing.
The ratio of adults per babies in nurseries in the UK is 1 nursery practitioner for 3 babies – you should not be in the count. As they get older the ration changes.
Most nurseries will group the children according to their age (months) into different rooms. When a baby turns above a specific month and / or their physical, social and mental development exceeds expectations, then they move on to the “bigger” room. The room with older children. You may not be informed in advance. You will have to adjust your session plan to who you have there and accommodate to the majorities’ needs.
It’s useful to prepare a progression of your activities and how to break it down to something simpler. This way you can easily adjust according to who you have on the day.
This is only a rough guide. You may know children that started walking at 10,5 months and others were still wobbly at 16 months, or could do simultaneous actions with both limbs earlier. Ask and be alert for changes sooner than expected.
Even if children can’t physically do something, they can’t do it YET. That means that you can build onto that skill. You can still ask the 20 month olds to put one hand on their tummy and one on their head. You will show them how to do it and move on to another activity, or break that activity down and allow each child to interpret it as they want. Be considerate. Don’t push them to do something they can’t do yet but guide them, show them and encourage them to do it when they are ready. Babies give feedback instantly, so if they feel frustrated about something you will know. Calmly congratulate them for what they have achieved and move on to something else that is more familiar.
During this designated music time with babies, you are building intention, perception, anticipation and expectations, feel safety and confidence in their abilities to carry on with their development. All this through music and sound exploration. So you are also offering an experience, the world through the auditory sense. All these qualities are invisible for a while but are there and are being cultivated through systematic and careful preparation.
I’d love to know your thoughts and how it goes for you!
© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020