Want to celebrate African American Appreciation Music Month with your kids, but not sure how? Don’t worry! We have some great ways for kids to creatively engage as they learn more about African American music. From learning about true artists, such as Louis Armstrong and Chuck Berry, to listening to age-old children’s tunes, there is always something new to appreciate about how the African American community has helped shape our music culture.
Learn Through Reading
The first thing little ones need to understand is where African American music originated as well as how determined musicians had to be to become successful. We’ve come up with a list of kid-friendly resources that will introduce them to African American music:
–Parent’s Choice has a stellar list of books revolving around African American musicians. From enchanting stories of Harlem, to admirable life story of black singer Marian Anderson, to tales of modern-day tap-dancing, these titles will get your little ones excited about music!
–Richland Library presents an inspiring list of reads celebrating women and African American music. Read along with your children about the success of independent women and how they made their mark on music.
Feel the Beat!
Are your kids already fans of modern day rock ‘n’ roll? It’s important for them to understand that such music forms wouldn’t have originated were it not for genres like blues and jazz, both shaped by talented African American artists including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Ernest Hogan, and Wynton Marsalis. To encourage kids to understand and appreciate the different music genres, try gathering them in an open space and have them dance to music selections varying from slow to fast. Here is a CD of fourteen catchy songs drawn straight from the heart of African American music for children to dance to: http://www.kaplantoys.com/store/trans/productDetailForm.asp?CatID=%7C%7C&PID=11533
Once they’ve danced to their heart’s content, you can teach them to pay attention to beat patterns found within the music, an important part of African American music. Here are a few games you can play with kiddos to help them understand rhythm and beat:
- Have children listen to the music and count the “boom booms” or “heartbeats” keeping track of how it changes throughout the song.
- To even further understand beat patterns, have little ones toss around a ball, stuffed animal, or other soft items while the music plays. Model the steady beat for your children when the song first starts by either tapping your toe or patting your leg. When you pass the item, have the child who’s holding it pick a new place to pat the steady beat (on their head, knees, belly, toes, etc.) The only rule is that it can’t be anywhere someone else has already played it. Have the kids sit after they’ve had a turn, so you can see who still needs a turn!
- Listen for different instruments in your song choices. Assign each child to an instrument and have them pretend to play it when it is heard. This is a fun way to not only recognize the variety of instruments being played, but it is also a great opportunity for dramatic play!
Listen to Live Music
Now that your kids have had an introduction to African American music, it’s time they got out and experienced it! There are several opportunities to see live music performed by current African American artists. Check concert halls, music festivals, and city events for a list of which artists are playing near you.
Make Your Music
Need instruments for your kids to play? Check out our selection of drums, pianos, maracas, and more! Hopefully, African American music awareness will inspire your children to make music of their own.
Happy music making!