Do’s

  • Choose short, catchy songs that anyone can sing along to – pick a sensible range too, nothing kills a music class like songs that are so high or low that no one can sing along.
  • Use as many simple, repetitive, and obvious actions as you can
  • Always keep some well-known songs in your repertoire. If you always just have new songs that none of the parents know, it will be hard for them to join in
  • Use a theme – for example, transport, the weather, colours, animals etc. and choose songs to fit in with that theme. Carry the theme on for at least 4 weeks, so that the adults learn the pattern of your class, feel comfortable with the new songs. This will bring a sense of continuity and purpose to the classes.
  • Go with the flow & be flexible. If a song isn’t going well, or you started it too high or low, make a joke out of it, laugh it off and start again. Or skip it altogether. So long as you keep smiling, don’t panic, and be the crazy music person that makes everyone laugh, then everything will be good.
  • Use props if you can. For example, use cuddly toys with the animal theme, pictures hidden around the walls and an umbrella for weather (you’ll have to let go of your superstitions for that one!)
  • Be as interactive as possible. If we continue with the animal theme and using cuddly toys, bring a nice little bag with you to put the toys in, and get the children to pick one out at a time. Make it exciting – what’s in the bag today?! A frog?? Who knows a song about a frog?
  • Have obvious and separate sections throughout the class. I tend to split mine up something like this
    • Hello songs – hello song, the hat song (any song that involves every child individually by name – Archie’s got the hat etc.), wake up song – a song about different parts of the body works well here.
    • Introduce the theme – I have a puppet (called Toucan Oucan, and yes he’s a toucan), who comes out to help me and tells me what the theme is for that class. Everyone loves him.
    • Theme songs – with the animal example, this would involve the children picking out animal toys and we’d sing a song about each one as it was pulled out. E.g. baa baa black sheep, 5 little speckled frogs, horsey horsey, etc.
    • Instrument time – at this point I hand out some shakers – 2 per child if possible, so that the adult can have one to play too if they want – and we do some shaker-based songs, starting and ending with ‘shake and stop’. Then a nice tidy up song while I collect them all in again.
    • Parachute songs – a parachute is always the most popular and fun part of the class, the kids love it and it gives a real focus so it’s the time that every kid in the room is involved and interested. I try to do at least 3 or 4 parachute songs, starting with kids sat at the edge while we bounce a toy or a balloon on the parachute, then they can either sit on top or go underneath while we do some other songs, ending with them all hiding under it to finish.
    • Bubbles – self explanatory – it’s good to have a standard bubble song for this to help with familiarity.
    • Goodbye song.
  • Turn up in plenty of time. I’m not so good at this, but am trying to get better! I hate getting there and finding there are already people there waiting for me, even if I am 15 minutes early! I like to feel prepared, and it’s always easier to set up without parents to chat to, sign in and collect payment from.
  • Accompany yourself – if possible. I always have a bright pink ukulele with me, and play along for the hello song and a couple of others. It grabs everyone’s attention and I don’t have to be precious about it as it was cheap and is pretty sturdy.
  • Make an effort to remember names & faces – don’t beat yourself up about forgetting them though! But if you see someone from your class somewhere else, or recognise them when they come along again, be friendly and make it obvious you recognise them, even if you don’t know their name!
  • Keep a register for every class. This will help you keep a record of who has paid and who your regulars are. You can also start a contacts list too, especially if people can book through your website or an app, where you can collect their info. Obviously, don’t bombard them – we all hate those annoying emails that just keep coming, but they’re useful to have if you suddenly have to cancel!
  • Have fun – if you’re having fun, then chances are everyone else is too. Plus you’ll enjoy your job a whole lot more!

Don’ts

  • Don’t worry if the group is feeling a bit flat and you aren’t getting a lot of response from the kids and adults. This used to really bother me, and it made me feel I was doing a really bad job. You’re not. More often that not, it’s the other adults who are tired and fed up, and just want somewhere to take their child to where they will be entertained so they can sit still for half an hour. Keep going.
  • Try not to ‘tell off’ any kids who are in your class. If they wander away from the group and their adult doesn’t seem bothered, keep going with your plan. It is your responsibility to teach the class, and kids have short attention spans and funny moods that, let’s be honest, no one understands. They’ll come back when they want to, or their grown up will go fetch them. Of course, if they are being disruptive or a large number have wandered away, then make a joke about it, keep it positive, and invite them back to the circle (maybe with a song!). Keeping everyone smiling is the key.
  • Don’t turn up without planning. The ability to wing it is an important one to have, but you need an outline and a plan to start with, otherwise you will seem unprofessional and like you haven’t put the effort in.
  • Don’t be precious about your props – they will get chewed, thrown up on, squashed etc. and that needs to be ok with you. Don’t bring anything with you that you wouldn’t give to your own baby/toddler.
  • Don’t rely exclusively on word of mouth – this is the best way to get people along to your group, but isn’t always a guarantee, especially at the beginning. Make a Facebook page, a free website if you can, so that people have somewhere they can look up the information without having to root around in their bag for a ripped up flyer they were handed a week ago. If you’re in the UK, it’s worth checking out the app Hoop, to see if they operate in your area. It’s an amazing app, if you don’t know it, Google it, now! People can find out about your class, book and pay through it, and I’ve found it hugely helpful in getting new people along.