Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Music Experiences for Toddlers in Day Care Centres

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Music Experiences for Toddlers in Day Care Centres

Article excerpt


Currently, more than half the women in Australia are in the work force (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2002), so child care is a necessity for many families. In June 2002, 27 per cent of Australian one-year-olds, 40 per cent of two-year-olds and more than 60 per cent of three-year-olds were enrolled in formal child care: long day care; family day care; or preschool services (ABS, 2003). There has been major growth in the child care sector since 1991 (Department of Family and Community Services, 1999, p. 2), with the most significant increase in demand being for places for children under three years of age (Ochiltree, 1994; Wangmann, 1995).

Programs for children under three are notably different in content and approach from those for older children. In planning music experiences for children under three, musical play and one-to-one interactions are crucial (Berger & Cooper, 2003; Feierabend, 1996; Morin, 2001; Smithrim, 1997; Tarnowski, 1999). Research into the musical development of infants and young children clearly demonstrates that the foundations for later learning are laid in these early years (Deliege & Sloboda, 1996; Gordon, 1990; Gruhn & Rauscher, 2002; Young 2003).

While arts experiences are acknowledged as an important component of early childhood programs (Wright, 2003), some practitioners are uncertain how best to provide appropriate music experiences for children under three. This paper documents a yearlong study of the music experiences provided for all the children in the toddler playroom of a large day care centre in metropolitan Sydney. The program was implemented by the playroom staff and a university researcher. This study focuses upon the kinds of music experiences that were found to be apposite for the children and practicable for the staff to implement, as well as on their responses to the program.


Seventeen children, aged from 12 to 20 months at the start of the study in February 2003, participated in the project. There were three staff members in the playroom team: Nita, the team leader, Sally and Lynn. (Pseudonyms for staff and children are used throughout this paper.) Each week, the researcher visited the playroom on two mornings to collect data. Data relating to children's responses to the program was gathered using observations of the researcher, staff, parents and video recordings. Staff responses were gathered using informal conversations and tape-recorded semi-structured interviews (Burns, 2000; Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000). Staff were shown transcripts of their conversations to allow them to modify or delete any comments. The data was analysed first using 'memoing' (Graue & Walsh, 1998, p. 166), and later, 'analytic induction' (Burns, 2000, p. 319)--segmenting the data, then looking for patterns or relationships (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1996).

The project used three types of music experiences: music as part of caregiving routines; music as play; and sociable music experiences (Suthers, 1998). In this paper, the three kinds of music experiences will be considered in turn. Vignettes emblematic of the type of experience will be used to illustrate each experience. Some of the responses of children and staff members are also documented.

Music as part of caregiving routines

Musical activities were incorporated into caregiving routines primarily by the staff of the toddler playroom. The researcher provided a range of playful activities that could be used in conjunction with routines such as nappy changing, sunsafe routines, handwashing, and preparing for snacks and meals. Many of these were based on rhymes, as initially the staff members were very hesitant about singing. However, over time they became confident enough to sing the tunes of songs they knew well, provided there was no music notation involved. So the researcher selected familiar songs, such as nursery rhymes, and adapted the tunes to suit particular routines. …

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