Music participation can provide undeniable benefits to children. Birdhouse Cajon Workshops teach the fundamentals of music making to young people  and give them the experience that “new” and “different” things need not arouse fear or self-consciousness. Life’s simplest “adventures” can be deeply gratifying. The primary goal of these activities is to ensure that the children are having FUN— enough fun that they will want to continue to play music again, and hopefully, for the rest of their lives. The sessions are not performance-based  and every effort is made to “encourage” rather than “correct” the kids. Below are some exercises that will be in the workshops. They were compiled by the percussion marketing council as part of thier developmental drumming programme. More Info can be found here.


Developmental Drumming Programme for Pre-Schoolers 

Exercises

Mimic The Familiar Rhythms Of Your Child’s Environment

Always keeping in mind that there is no right and wrong way for a young child to play an instrument, help your child to develop their listening skills by encouraging them to tune into the sounds around them and try to mimic them. Some fun suggestions are: walking footsteps, skipping footsteps, galloping footsteps, running footsteps, a ticking clock, even the waves pounding the shore during a family excursion to the beach! The rhythmic possibilities are endless! 

The Rhythmic Memory Game 

Once a child has learned to listen for the rhythm in recorded music, the well-known game of Memory (with a new rhythmic twist!) is a natural next step. When you can hear that the child is successfully mimicking the rhythm in the piece, stop the music and encourage the child to continue playing solo for as long as he can. No matter how “perfectly” they perform, congratulate them for a job well done! Gaining self-confidence is far more important than percussive excellence. With practice playing along with their favorite tunes, it is only a matter of time before they can recall the rhythmic parts without first hearing the whole piece.

Rhythmic Dialogs 

 Once your child is able to create simple rhythms, inspire them to take it one step further to rhythmic dialogs. Start a dialog between the different sounds- try a call and response, back-and-forth, back-and-forth approach. Coach them to think of the rhythmic responses as “conversations” that go in a repetitive cycle. Recite the following conversation aloud and ask the child to beat, shake, clap, or jingle along with you to the rhythm.

Three fast beats: How are you?

One beat: Fine.

repeat

Once they’re comfortable with the exercise, you can progress to something like this:

Three fast beats: How are you?

One slow beat: Fine

Two fast beats: ...and you?

One slow beat: Fine

repeat

Once they’ve mastered a rhythmic dialog, you can keep the game interesting by adding to it or by changing it altogether. If you run out of ideas, ask your child to come up with some “scripts” of their own!

Six fast beats: Nice weather we’re having

One slow beat with two fast beats: Yes, it is!

repeat

Rhythmic Follow The Leader 

The much-loved game of “Follow the Leader” becomes a whole new game when rhythm is thrown into the mix! To this point, the group is probably still speaking the words to the dialogs as they play along with their instruments. This activity is slightly more advanced in that it does not use accompanying vocalizations and will focus participants more on rhythm. Clap a simple rhythm with your hands and encourage them to copy you as they beat a drum, shake a shaker or strike a tone block or triangle. If you aren’t feeling creative, use any of the rhythms from the previous exercises, but don’t vocalize! If that doesn’t inspire you, what about a rhythmic interpretation of a section of a favorite song, nursery rhyme or TV jingle?

A slightly more advanced version of this exercise is to hide your hands when clapping, training participants to rely solely on sound. This is a great way to encourage focused listening skills. Another variation puts one of the parents in charge, thereby promoting their self-confidence and teaching abilities. You can play along with the group and mimic the new “Leader’s” rhythms. 

Play Along With Music That Appeals To You And Your Child

After familiarizing your child with the variety of sounds that they can create with their instrument, a terrific way to get started playing is to drum, shake, tap, or jingle along with a recorded song. Any lively piece will do, but selecting your child’s favorites will guarantee their delight. Simply beat a drum, shake a shaker, or jingle a jingle stick to the beat. This is a time for experimentation and discovery. Make an effort to refrain from correcting your child at this early stage of the game. Remember that there is no right and wrong and don’t be surprised when your child starts to request songs they’ve heard on the radio to play along with! This is a very healthy sign that they would like to expand their musical repertoire! 

Rhythm-Talk 

Now that your child is familiar with the different “voices” that their instrument can make, inspire them to create simple rhythms. Explain that every spoken language has its own unique beat, and within every sentence, music can be found. Demonstrate how to clap, rattle, tap, clap, or drum the rhythm of the following phrases, and invite them to do the same. If you can say it, you can play it!

All aboard!

Listen to the clock: tick-tock, tick-tock.

Calling all cars! Calling all cars!

Hey, diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle...

Cock-a-doodle-doo!

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck...

Mary had a little lamb... 

Fast-And-Slow 

This is a slightly more advanced exercise. Select any one of the rhythmic phrases from the Rhythm-Talk exercise and beat, tap, clap, or shake it for your child. The next step is to demonstrate how to play it at a (faster) tempo. Practice the two together, coaching your child to copy your example at a faster tempo. The options are endless, but here a few rhythms to start off with.

Hickory, dickory, dock!

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream.

Follow the yellow brick road!

Twinkle, twinkle, little star!

Then switch! To teach slower rhythms, ask your child to copy your patterns at a slower tempo. Keep the game interesting by asking your child to suggest portions of their favorite songs, nursery rhymes, or theme songs from their favorite TV shows!