At L’Enfant Roi, the first French-language Montessori nurseries in Luxembourg, art and creativity are part of children’s everyday life. Urban BEAST met with Mélissande, a musician and music educator at L’Enfant Roi nurseries, to discuss the importance of musical expression in the pedagogy developed by Maria Montessori more than 110 years ago.
L’Enfant Roi makes a point of stimulating the creativity of children, not least through recreational activities. How important is it to introduce children to music from an early age?
Introducing children to music from a very early age is important because it allows them to experience new sensations. It helps them to relax and increases their attentiveness. It also helps to develop their motor coordination, intellectual ability and their verbal, social and emotional language skills.
In attempting to reproduce sounds and melodies, children actually stimulate their imagination and artistic sensitivity. In music classes for toddlers, the children learn to concentrate and develop their memories. Therefore, they grow in confidence while having a good time singing.
How do you introduce children to the various forms of musical expression?
Children are introduced to the various forms of musical expression in 20-30 minute sessions, depending on their age. The children are placed into groups of no more than 8 so that they can take full advantage of the session and so that I can respond to their needs.
This introduction predominantly involves discovery and exploration.
In introducing children to music, I mainly use nursery rhymes which involve the use of hand and finger expressions or a particular gesture; I present the instruments that the children will subsequently use, pass them around and make sure that the children become as familiar as possible with them. It is important to show and explain to the children how the instrument is played so that they can use it properly. We mainly use percussion instruments.
Rhythm is emphasised through songs about parts of the body, the hands or the use of instruments.
There are other ways of introducing children to the various musical forms such as learning about and listening to musical works and instruments from different families, creating soundscapes, improvising specific themes or stories, movements, etc.
Do you also incorporate discussion into this introductory process? What advice do you give them?
During these introductory sessions, I also undertake brief discussions as it is important to explain to children what we will be doing, e.g. what instrument will be used. It is essentially about explaining what we are doing.
No matter how young they are, children always need simple and rational explanations based on precise and illustrated vocabulary which I strive to use.
We therefore speak to the children as much as possible…because at the crèche, we are at a sensitive period for language and the teacher, as a competent adult, is a role model for the children.
What are the particular types of music used to introduce children to music from an early age? How do children generally react during the first few sessions?
In general lullabies, nursery rhymes and other children’s songs are suitable for the purpose of introducing children to music, but it is interesting to use other musical styles such as classical music, lyrical works, instrumental pieces, music from other countries of the world…
All musical styles can be used if they are integrated as part of a constructive and carefully considered teaching method, such as the Montessori teaching method. Moreover, in her time, Maria Montessori had described the benefits of the music education of children as an important facet of education in general.
In the first few sessions, I was amazed to see that children were always very cheerful and forward. They have a great time and are particularly attentive and fascinated when I present my instrument (the transverse flute) and play it in front of them. They are always happy to take part in these introductory sessions and spontaneously join in with me when I come to a particular module.