Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.


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My “hands-down” favorite type of body percussion is “Slap-Clap.”  This simple alternation between slapping thighs and clapping hands is pure genius.

Clapping, by itself, can get tiring, both for the body and for the ear.  You have to hold your arms up to do it, at roughly the same level, and we don’t have the same kind of muscle control for lateral movement as we do up-and-down.  And, for the listening ear, a series of claps can get motoric. It’s possible to lose the sense of the rhythm in the monotony of the beat.

But “Slap-Clap” has a nice variety in sound, alternating between the thuddy “Slap” and the brighter “Clap.”  And it is easy to maintain. The arms swing down to meet the thighs, and then swing up again to meet one another. The movement feels natural.

In our human movement development, this symmetrical down-up, or homologous, “Slap” motion precedes the lateral motion of “Clap.” We’ve all seen babies lying on their backs, waving their arms and legs.  That’s the kind of movement we use for the “Slap.”  And it’s definitely easier to hit a large unmoving target – the thigh – than a smaller moving one – the other hand!

You can start practicing the “Slap-Clap” with the simpler “Slap-Slap” to the thighs.  Get the beat going.  You can use a song or a nursery rhyme - anything in duple time will do.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row!”

Once you are confident of your beat, alternate between the “Slap” and “Clap.” Begin with the “Slap.”  Because the “Clap” is brighter, and comes on the off-beat, an automatic syncopation is created.  One- TWO, One-TWO. . . This lifts the energy into something light and “up,” something you can maintain for a long time.

“Slap-Clap” is a great rhythm to play with a child on your lap.  As you slap your thighs and clap your hands over the child’s head, or in front of their bodies (depending on how big they are and how you are sitting), you create a three-dimensional soundsphere in which they can experience the beat and the surrounding rhythm.  And if they can see your hands, you may be giving them an experience in visual tracking as well.

For an even more multi-sensory experience, replace your hand clap with a gentle bounce on either side of the child’s body – usually the arms – or a light pat to the tummy.  Now the child is getting both an auditory and tactile experience of the beat.

“Slap-Clap” is a great attention-getter.  Its hypnotic swing is a good way to begin any class or informal musical experience. And when you don't know what to do next, or if the attention of your charges starts to wander, just start in with the “Slap-Clap.”  If you can’t think of a song, any doggerel will do – “Fee-Fie-Fo-Fum,” the children’s names, the days of the week, the months of the year. . . whatever you come up with, “Slap-Clap” will buy you time. It will organize the energy in the room so that everyone can think and breathe together once again. It’s one of the most powerful secrets I keep in my back pocket – and now it’s in your back pocket, too!

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