Dynamics is where it all began for me. It's the first lesson I ever developed for this age group and I think it's one of the more engaging themes that we do each year. I think it came to me first because it's an easy concept to learn. Loud, soft, getting louder, getting softer. These are things that children can understand and then easily apply to music.
We start with learning a couple of terms: forte and piano. Forte in music means loud. Now, there is a whole spectrum of dynamics and we only touch on a few of them, but for teaching purposes, we learn Forte (loud) and Piano (soft). I show them the actual symbol that is used in sheet music so that they can associate the icon with the term. This kind of "icon association" is a developmental standard starting at the young toddler age. We practice by shouting FORTE!! when we see the forte symbol, and whispering "piano" when we see the piano symbol. I hold up the signs and try to trick them... it becomes a fun game! Then, I let the children hold up the sign themselves for their friends.
Once we fully understand the Forte/Piano concept, we can apply it to music. I let the children hold up the sign while we sing a song. The child can change the dynamics of the song while we are singing and the rest of us react by singing loudly or softly.
Later in the month, I introduce the terms crescendo and decrescendo. These are the musical words for getting gradually louder or softer. There's a symbol for these too! With these I like to incorporate our hands and arms. We start with our hands close together and we sing a note "laaaa" and as we get louder, our hands grow further apart, demonstrating that the volume is growing. We do the same with the reverse, decrescendo.
The children are now ready to identify these dynamic occurrences while listening to music. I try to find some classical music that is very dynamic and we use our bodies to show that we can hear when the music is soft or loud or getting softer or getting louder by crouching down and standing tall. We are incorporating their gross motor skills into their cognitive learning to reinforce the concepts. It's a lot of fun, and really effective! I think the favorite this year was listening to the opening theme of Star Wars! LOTS of dynamic changes in that one!
I think my favorite part about this theme is seeing the teachers use it in their classrooms for volume control. Now, instead of telling everyone to be quiet or that they are too loud, They can say, "let's all speak at a piano level", or... "I can hear you crescendo as you play with your friends, now let's try a decrescendo back down to piano". Now it becomes an activity, or a transitional aide instead of a command. I used it a bunch as a full time teacher in the toddler room!
The most fun part is when I bring in the drum set and we all practice playing dynamically! The children were able to use what they had learned and apply it as they created music on the drums!
I hope that you find ways to use and have fun with dynamics in your home. Dynamics are everywhere and it's so beneficial, at any age, to take the time to notice and listen to the changing dynamics around us.