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Why we love the early years!

Early years classes are where Made with Music started nearly nine years ago now! We really value our early years classes and all of the amazing parents we’ve met along the way. In fact, most of our work has been generated by parents coming to our early years classes and recommending us to other parents and organisations when they’ve gone back to work! Thank you so much if that’s been you. Our early years classes have allowed Made with Music to grow organically from providing something that was initially for our own children and their friends, to something that we can offer in many different settings and in many different guises – mini-gigs, perinatal mental health, intergenerational projects have all grown from our early years classes and suggestions from the families that we’ve met along the way.

It’s been 18 months since we’ve run a live early years class (or a live anything!) and we really miss seeing all of the smiling faces each week. We’ve recreated some of the interaction on Zoom, but Facebook has none at all and it’s what we thrive off. Learning about all the babies and children that come along and their likes and dislikes drives us to create new and exciting classes that change each time a new group comes along. In real life, we can also change what is happening in the moment to respond to how everyone is feeling on the day.

So why haven’t we gone back yet? Technically we could have gone back from 12th April as groups for children were allowed, but are our groups just for the children? We like to think not. Although the focus of the classes is the children, we believe in the benefits of singing and chatting for the mental health and wellbeing of parents and carers too. In our classes we include short, repeated chants and songs for parents to say and sing to their children and we teach songs for parents to sing in rounds or in harmony – live singing with harmonies is something that you can’t recreate in your own at home and even if you aren't a confident singer or you feel like you can't sing, to your child, your voice is the most magical thing they can hear! Since April, the advice has been that not more than six people can sing together in a room and that all adults need to wear masks. We know that lots of early child development comes from copying facial expressions, looking at lip movements, hearing your parent or carers voice and so it didn’t seem like the right thing to go back without all of these important aspects of our classes being possible. (Just so you know, you don't need any musical experience to come to our classes but we will expect you to sing once it's safe to do so!)

Another core part of the Made with Music ethos is that classes are inclusive and open to all. We hope that we’re approachable and easy to talk to and also ask on all registration forms if there’s anything we can do to make the classes more accessible and inclusive of your needs. There have been massive inclusion benefits to Zoom; sometimes it’s easier not to leave your own home for a variety of reasons and we hope to continue a Zoom class as well as live classes in the future because of this. When classes are in person, we hold them in spaces that are physically accessible, we use Makaton sign as part of the sessions and we have picture cards for songs as well as multi-sensory elements throughout the classes. We also have subsidised rates for siblings, and subsidised and free places available on an honesty basis – we’re not going to ask for proof of income or benefits – we just hope that you will get in touch if you need one.

Our inclusion and wellbeing ethos extends to the musicians who work for Made with Music. Everyone who leads an early years class is a freelance professional musician and is paid fairly for their time and expertise. We have set fees for everyone who works for us and as a charity, all sessions are run on a not-for-profit basis. Hannah and Kathryn have specialist training and qualifications in early years music teaching, child development and inclusive music practice in addition to music degrees and many years’ experience of working with children in the early years and their families. We work with other freelance musicians to introduce different instruments and different personalities to our classes and we almost always work in pairs, so that we can support each other musically and emotionally (it gets lonely being freelance!)

Our early years classes are a mixture of well-known nursery rhymes, your favourite songs and songs and rhymes that might be new to you, combined with multi-sensory elements and percussion instruments for you to play. We hope you’ll find them relaxed, friendly, welcoming, personalised and inclusive and if you don’t, please tell us so that we can improve. We’ll be starting back in real life in September and we have a couple of covid-secure taster sessions in July so that you can try us out before committing to a five week block of sessions – please tell your friends as we’d love to see you there!

Unfortunately, we lost our regular venue but we’re going to be trialling sessions at Heart in Headingley on Tuesday mornings and at Chapel Allerton Tennis Club on Wednesday afternoons.

Have you been to our early years classes over the past 9 years? Say hi and let us know your thoughts on them in the comments below so that other people know whether to give us a try or not!

If you’d like to sign up to our taster sessions in Headingley or Chapel Allerton, click here.

If you’d like to contribute towards a place for someone who couldn’t afford one otherwise, you can buy a donation voucher from our shop here or donate online.

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