Since I became a violin and piano teacher, I’ve used a variety of tools, props, and games to keep things exciting for my music students.
Some of these have worked very well, while others fell a bit flat.
However, there is one thing that has never failed me.
Today I’m going to share my secret weapon for teaching music with you all.
That secret weapon is…drumroll please… stuffed animals!
Kids Love Them
I have never had a student who did not get excited when I pulled a stuffed animal out of my teaching bag.
Whether they love pandas, dogs, teddy bears, or anything that’s cuddly, it boosts lesson engagement by approximately three hundred percent (roughly).
This is especially helpful when you’re working with students who aren’t terribly enthused about their music lessons to begin with.
The prospect of having a favorite stuffie there to “help” teach them is a good
bribe motivational tool to get them more on board with learning about music-making.
They’re Bright, Colorful, and Interesting
Part of the beauty of stuffed animals is their uniqueness.
They come in a thousand shapes, sizes, and colors.
You also have the opportunity to give them their own personalities, whether they have a creative name or you just simply call them “Teddy”, “Sloth”, or “Frog”.
The more interesting you make your stuffed friends for your students, the more likely they are to pay attention to what’s being taught.
That’s a win, right?
They Are Incredibly Useful
Are you wondering how these stuffed animal friends can actually be useful during a music lesson? I’ve got you covered!
In my studio, I have employed these furry, loveable lesson helpers in the following tasks:
- Asked students to bounce them while I tap out a rhythm or demonstrate various tempos
- Had the student play “teacher” to a stuffed animal (Examples: “Can you show Benny the Bear where all the B notes are in this piece?” “Freddie the Fluffy Dog loves fourths. How many fourths are in this piece? Let’s point them out to him.”)
- Used the stuffed animal “play” the piece on the keyboard with their paw/fin/tail and intentionally miss some notes or rhythms. Then asked the students to point out where the errors were and play them for me.
- Assigned one stuffed animal to a student’s right hand and another to their left hand, then asked them to help their stuffie friends “play” a piece on our piano mat.
- Reminded them to play with a rounded hand shape (“If your fingers are flat, Buddy’s tail can’t fit under them! Don’t pinch his tail!”)
- Used them as a muse for a student composition project.
- Balanced a lighter and a heavier stuffed animal on the students hands to illustrate the difference between playing pianissimo and forte.
- Had them perform a celebratory backflip when a student plays a difficult section well (hey, when you have a perfectionist or highly sensitive student on your hands, you do whatever you can do boost morale!)
I am constantly discovering new ways to bring stuffed animals into the lesson to aid in student learning.
I’m sure you’ll also come up with some great ideas of your own!
They Add Variety to Your Lesson Plans
We love teaching, and we love our students. However, that doesn’t mean that we never get the itch to try something new.
If you feel like your in a rut with lesson planning, try bringing in a stuffed animal friend or two to liven things up a bit.
There are so many creative ways to use them to teach music (see above for some ideas).
It could be just what you and your students need to keep things fresh and engaging.
Students Never Get Tired of Them
Perhaps the best thing about using stuffed animals as teaching tools is that students never get tired of them.
Hopefully that means they will never get tired of exploring the art of making music with you.
The point of teaching is not just to pass on knowledge about music to our students, but a passion for it as well.
And if a furry, fuzzy friend helps to capture their imagination and sparks a lifelong joy in them for making music, what’s not to love?
Have you ever used stuffed animals as teaching tools? Let us know in the comments!