Musical Games: Notation on Craft sticks

Given everything that is going on in the world at the moment, with everyone needing to stay at home a lot more my thoughts have been turning to how on earth I will entertain my 2 children when we are inevitably stuck at home. Here in the UK schools have not yet closed, but I know it is a matter of time. I have a 2, nearly 3 year old who is incredibly active, and a 5, nearly 6 year old, who is very good at concentrating on any given task. They are very different and have very different learning styles both because of their ages and personalities-my elder son likes to understand and master something before he feels comfortable really going for it, my daughter will give most things a go right from the off but gets bored very quickly. So I need quite a lot of activities for them if (when) we are on lockdown.

I will try to share as many as possible here (young children at home allowing of course). My first idea was to find ways of teaching both children musical notation and rhythm. At least to start teaching them what different note lengths look like. So I have drawn some on plain craft (popsicle sticks). Each craft stick represents a bar in 2/4 time (2 beats in a bar, imagine a marching band playing a beat to get soldiers marching in line together). I drew 4 of each with the aim being to play a few games with them:

  • Musical snap is the first that came to mind, so we use the craft sticks like cards and “snap” if 2 of the same rhythm come up
  • Musical flash cards: draw a craft stick and attempt the rhythm on there
  • Tune recognition: place the craft sticks in an order, tap or sing the rhythm and see if we recognise it. This one might be quite tricky with my two.
  • Rhythm composition: arrange the craft sticks and then tap or sing the rhythm that is shown, then get the children to rearrange them.

So I started with these craft sticks:

Then I thought I should make sure my children could read the notation on there. We started off clapping the rhythms, then putting our names to the rhythms, but quite frankly that did not work because all of our names fitted the crotchet sticks. My children were haggling for snacks at the same time as doing this, so I ended up illustrating the different rhythm/notation patterns with the snacks we were talking about! I’ll be honest, my daughter got bored very quickly, pretty much once it was clear the offer of chocolate wasn’t actually on the table.

It seemed to work with my son, though and he was able to go through all of them one after the other. A good basis ready to start playing our game a and seeing if any of them work for my two.

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