Monday, May 20, 2013


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What little kid doesn't like to blow on whistles, shake maracas or beat on pots and pans to make a ton of racket? The musical mayhem of preschoolers is silly at best and migrane-inducing at worst. For preschool engineers the smashing and crashing might be OK for a bit but they are soon turning away from the instruments in search of something more "interesting."

I'm not sure if it is just because video games suck you in or if this particular one has so many things to figure out but Toca Boca's iOS game called Toca Band has intrigued my preschool engineers in surprising ways.

Each "instrument" is located along the bottom of the screen. The player drags and drops the instrument to a circle. If the instrument is placed on one of the circle pads on the bottom row then it will have a slow tempo. The middle row has faster tempo and the top row is the fastest tempo. So the banjo plays slowly on the bottom, faster in the middle, and fastest on the top. The yellow pad that has a star is actually a lift so your child can investigate the nuances of each instrument in turn. She can pluck the strings of the harp or make the percussionist shake, rattle, and roll.

Your child can create ensemble music and it is almost fool-proof. Some ensembles sound better than others and I think that is the interesting thing for a preschool engineer.

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Toca Band for iPhone
Toca Band for iPad
Not available on Android. If you have a favorite music app for kids to recommend then please share it in the comments!

Curious George
More inspiration from PBS's "Curious George!" There are three things I like about "The All-Animal Recycled Band." First, Curious George make his own instruments from containers and other stuff he finds in his house. It is yet another source from which your child can learn to "reduce, reuse, recycle." Second, the band members are his friends (two dogs, a cat, and a bird) who have varying levels of cooperation...another "truth" for Curious George to investigate.

Preschool Engineers as In-House Musicians
Between his work with Toca Band and his research watching Curious George's All-Animal Recycled Band, Mikey has become more and more inspired to create his own instruments and his own music. He tries to direct everyone in the family. He tests new materials for sound. His success rate seems to land somewhere in between Toca Band and Curious George.

When I think about what exactly is so interesting for a preschool engineer trying to make music I look to my son for hints. I think it is about balancing order with disorder, learning scales on a xylophone or in progressively larger and larger bowls versus playing harmonies, playing on the beat or in syncopation. I guess whatever the explanation is for why a preschool engineer likes to figure out complex music probably isn't as important providing the time and space for them to figure it out.
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