by Zoe Kilb
Grants & Learning Officer at Youth Music
Youth Music is passionate about ensuring all young children have access to high-quality music-making. As well as providing a strong base for children’s individual musical journeys, making music has numerous additional benefits for babies, toddlers and their families.
We’re supporting organisations across England who are working to provide music-making opportunities for children from birth to age 5.
These projects work directly with early years children in a variety of settings, and they also make an important contribution to the music education sector – helping to develop the workforce, build the research base, and grow networks of organisations and practitioners to share and advocate for early years music-making.
Here are some of the music-making projects we’re currently funding for children aged 0-5.
WILD Young Parents’ Project
The Music Makes Me Happy project brings music into the everyday lives of young parent families living in some of the most deprived areas of Cornwall. The project nurtures the musical, emotional and language development of babies and toddlers.
WILD believe that for children to experience music, parents need to be engaged and inspired, so the project also includes music-making sessions targeted specifically at mums and dads – strengthening family relationships, supporting their mental health, and helping them to build skills, confidence and resilience.
Groundswell Arts work in schools and children’s centres in Haringey, North London. Children and their parents take part in songwriting and music-making workshops. Performing and recording songs together helps to enhance learning, and build positive working relationships between the children and their parents.
Groundswell also run monthly Family Jam sessions, introducing families to a variety of genres of music, and providing opportunities for children and adults to play and explore music together. Sessions have included African drumming, Irish music, and an orchestra where participants made instruments from vegetables!
Take Art are working to develop the early years music-making community across South-West England. Alongside a workforce development programme, the SoundWaves Network project will see a range of music-making activities for children aged 0-5 take place across the South West.
Three regional ‘learning communities’ have been established in Bristol, Plymouth and Somerset which connect higher education institutions, Music Education Hubs and the early years sector. Learning will be shared through Take Art’s regional and national networks.
The Arts Development Company
The Babigloo Music for Babies project is working with parents and babies in Poole and North Dorset, trialling an innovative and holistic approach to early years music-making. The non-verbal methods use music, vocal sounds and rhythms to improve babies’ listening skills.
The Music for Change project is working across 12 nurseries and children’s centres in London and the South East. Aimed at enhancing children’s speech, language and communication skills, the project combines free play, child-led activities, storytelling and music.
The Spark Arts For Children
The Tiny Sparks programme takes place across children’s centres in deprived areas of Leicester. Professional musicians Dave ‘Stickman’ Higgins and Arun Ghosh deliver music-making activities designed to develop language skills in children, as well as passing on motivation, confidence and ideas to both parents and teachers to support them to continue their own music activities.
A training programme has also enabled Arun and Dave to pass on their skills and experience to musicians who are new to early years teaching.
Sounds of Intent in the Early Years is a resource which explains how young children develop musically. As well as providing ideas for activities suited to children at different stages of musical development, the resource provides a simple way of recording their progress.
Since its launch in 2015 the resource has been distributed to children’s centres, local authorities and Music Education Hubs nationwide. Soundabout have delivered music-making activities in children’s centres across England and trained early years practitioners to use the framework.
Great Yarmouth Community Trust
SALTmusic is an action research project based at the Great Yarmouth Community Trust. The project brings together music practitioners and speech and language therapists to support young children with communication difficulties through music-making. The team have been exploring what happens when these two groups of specialists bring together their expertise.
Further reading for those working with early years children: The SALTmusic team have published a report outlining the findings of their research.
Chesterton Parents Group
Little Music Makers is a weekly group that meets at the Chesterton Methodist Church in Cambridge. Alongside their accompanying adults, pre-school children have the opportunity to sing, explore instruments and make music.
Chesterton Parents Group is run by volunteers, and the music sessions are led by a music teacher who uses Makaton (a simple sign language that can be used alongside songs or speech to help with children’s language learning and engagement).
Although Cambridge is often regarded as an affluent city, East Chesterton experiences high levels of deprivation. The church is home to the local food bank which has seen large increase in demand over the past year, and Little Music Makers is an important regular fixture for many local families.
Tri-borough Music Hub
The Tri-borough Music Hub delivers music-making activities across the three London boroughs of Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea. Their early years project brings together a group of venues, arts organisations, children’s centres and local authority services, working together to improve, coordinate and support high-quality music provision across all early years settings in the three boroughs.
The project has also given rise to Musical Development Matters – a resource aimed at helping practitioners, teachers, musicians and parents to understand and support children’s musical development. The resource was created in collaboration with the British Association for Early Childhood Education and is free to access.
Music-making near you
We’re currently funding over 350 projects nationwide, including several not mentioned above that are doing great work with early years children! You can see a full list here.