Preschool Prodigies Review
Sponsored by Preschool Prodigies
Full disclaimer- while I did receive free access to the playground as part of our collaboration, all opinions expressed are my own. I chose to collaborate because I love what Preschool Prodigies is doing. This post contains affiliate links. 🙂
The theory behind the videos
And by theory, I mean Music Theory. The videos are fun and engaging by sheer fact that there are so many cute animations and kids love them (mine sure do!), but you don't need me to tell you that, you can see it for yourself in the samples Mr. Rob has published. Instead, I'm going to focus on a few aspects that really stood out to me.
Meaningful exposure to individual pitches. This, my friends, is how to help a child develop perfect and relative pitch. The bells are introduced individually in the chapters and we get to know one before more are introduced. We get to know how C and G get along before other pitches are introduced. I love the way Mr. Rob does this in the curriculum.
Curwen Hand Signs (solfege). Not only do you get to learn the solfege hand signs with Mr. Rob, but there is a nifty shorthand incorporated in the text to help you remember how to sign the names. I learned about the Curwen Hand Signs when I took my Orff level one training and later saw how much children benefit from the "hands on" singing approach in choral settings. While I have taught my kids the signs in the past, they have never been very excited about them, but Mr. Rob really made it magical. Even my 2-year-old is starting to get it!
Ear Training Games. I love these!! There are storm clouds coming, do they contain rain, a I chord, or a V chord? Listen carefully, and watch out, because Mr. Rob might get wet! Then there's the Halloween special, Which Witch is it? Listen so you can tell if it's the low C, the high C, or the G Witch. Now is as good a time as any to tell you that I think Rob is incredibly talented. He makes these videos himself, including the video editing and the accompanying sound tracks. They look so good a whole team could be behind it all. Which Witch was especially engaging for my kids- fun music background!
Piano Challenges. If a song has those first 5 notes in the scale, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, the bells have numbers on them and we often sing the song based on the numbers, as well as the solfege, letter names, and color. Now that we've practiced the song with those numbers, Mr. Rob invites the kids to try it out on the piano. You can watch the videos on the iPad while you play, or you can print out the sheet music from the Resources section.
Interactive elements. Let me hear you play it. Echo after me. Get your bells lined up like so and play along. Do the hand signs with me. Get out a drum. Hey, nice job! These videos are not for passive watching, it's easy to get involved.
Chord building. This is something really special, because too many people take years of piano lessons without really understanding how to build chords and here we are learning about them in a preschool curriculum! I love how they are explained so simply and reinforced in such friendly ways. Sometimes we sing and accompany ourselves using the root of the chord, and Mr. Rob explains what that is too. Great stuff.
Orff-like approach to rhythm. To get a feel for this approach, watch the Snow Day video below, or simply look at the featured picture. By using words that fit the rhythm, it helps beginning students get a feel for the beat without having to think too hard about it. It's fun to pick a theme and come up with words that fit. Mr. Rob has done this with winter weather, farm animals, fruits and veggies, and probably more, I've only been exploring the playground a week.
You can see more Preschool Prodigies videos on their YouTube Channel.
A Closer look at the curriculum
Each chapter (there are currently 6, but Rob is often adding new content) contains 6-7 videos and comes with a workbook consisting of 30-50 pages. When I perused through them I was completely blown away. The whole thing integrates so well with each other- the videos with the books, and the entire scope and sequence. This is a very carefully laid out, complete curriculum. Step one, step two, no guesswork on what to do, when to progress, etc. The books are really cute too! The pacing and skills taught are perfect for preschoolers, but I would not hesitate to recommend it for older children too. There are a few holes in my older kids' music education and I'll be using this curriculum to fill in the gaps. As I skimmed the curriculum, I tried to pick out a variety of activities to give you an idea of the breadth covered, one activity for each of my kids.
General Preschool Concepts
Not only does the curriculum teach about music, but other skills are practiced as well, such as pattern recognition, learning phonetic sounds, and pictured, writing letters, numbers and words. The first three words just happen to be Do, Re, Mi.
Big Family Friendly
If I have to pay online for something per-child, that's often a deal breaker for me. I didn't print out a page for my youngest to do, and he knew it. Click, click, print! Happy little boy.
Exploration in musical expression. Example: Patrick's page asks him to color each of the bells either red, orange, or yellow in order to write a song. He was very methodical with the process. We sang his song up to where he was after each bell was complete. When we were done, we took it to the piano and he was able to play a song he wrote! Ruth was excited to play his song too. I love that the last bell was already colored red so that the song ended on "Do", the tonic note. Any combination of notes would have sounded great, which makes this kind of exercise perfect for beginners. They're going to experience success, and how exciting to write their own song!
Crafts and Games. Many of the pages involve cutting and pasting, which goes back to my point about teaching general preschool skills. In this example, Helen cut and pasted a C cube from chapter 6. There are cubes for each letter in the musical alphabet and the user is encouraged play with the cubes and stack them up to build chords. Those tiny triangles show every chord that has a C in it, so there's a handy reference built in to the curriculum. Don't worry if the idea of building chords sounds scary- by chapter 6 you will have had a lot of practice and exposure to chords from previous lessons and by watching the videos and doing previous chapters.
The curriculum and videos are fully integrated. I chose Peter's example because there's a public YouTube video for it I could share. If you watched "Snow Day" above, you'll recognize the ice, snowmen and winterwonder elements. There are several pages to go with the video, including manipulatives you can cut out and move around to write your own song. Peter's page is asking you to count how many eighth notes there are in each line/measure and write the answer in the box. Every last video in the playground chapters has several pages in the workbook that correlate beautifully.
Step-by-step guides for parents. If the idea of teaching music to your kid(s) intimidates you, the parent resources are going to be your best friend. There are practice calendars you can print out, recommended skills a child should master before moving on, and best of all, recommended daily checklists for a 5-day a week practice schedule. Each daily activity involves watching or re-watching a video and doing one-two pages in the workbook. Naturally you can skip some activities and spend more time on others if you wish to adapt the curriculum, but there is a solid schedule in place if doing so feels uncomfortable to you.
Preschool Prodigies vs Little Musician vs Teaching Children Music
Before I close, I want to address a question I know some of my friends will have who are already familiar with BrillKids' Little Musician and wonder how it compares with Preschool Prodigies, and for that matter, my own products. I love all three and I think that they all fulfill different needs, and that they fit their target niche beautifully.
Little Musician was specifically designed with babies in mind. As such, even though their are clap-along sections at the end and sections you can sing along with, the lessons are primarily passive listening/watching. Depending on the parent, this can include interactive participation or not. Either way, the child will be exposed to a broad collection of classical music, learn to be familiar with the sounds of standard instruments, and a variety of other things. It's a full software curriculum that mixes things up enough that you'll never have the same lesson twice. We love it. The limitations of Little Musician are that it is on-screen activities only, and will involve your own voice and body percussion only, unless you adapt the curriculum yourself. Those who do are often doing it for their older children, which is great. Little Musician was originally designed with babies in mind though, and that's where it is perfect. Having said that, BrillKids is also a company that fully recognizes the full potential of babies and their reading curriculum has taught many children to read before their second or even first birthday, mine included. So it's not a watered down curriculum, just very age-appropriate for babies. As a side note, many Little Musician users have loved "The Solfege Train" on our website because we use the same colors and they compliment each other so well. Little Musician being the on-screen learning time, and The Solfege Train being the off-screen reinforcement.
Preschool Prodigies on the other hand was specifically designed with, you guessed it, preschoolers in mind. Preschoolers have much better motor skills and are ready to begin learning an instrument. Even if they don't have the finger dexterity to play the piano yet, the bells Mr. Rob has chosen are perfect because playing them is a gross motor skill. These videos are a lot more interactive than Little Musician in that the child will be doing hand signs and playing an instrument WHILE they are watching the video. Having said that, I haven't purchased the bells yet myself and the videos were still very engaging and practical for my kids. I still want the bells though! You'll get more out of this curriculum if you buy the instrument too. But how much does a tiny violin cost? How much do local lessons cost? One of the packages on his website gets you the bells AND a full year's curriculum (videos and workbooks) for $150. Not a bad deal, especially if you have more than one kid that can participate. I'll be buying one set of bells and will let my kids take turns using them. We also have boomwhackers, which are the same colors, and they can be used by giving each kid a boomwhacker that is used in the lesson, encouraging ensemble practice. You could do the same thing with the bells. Anyway, my point is that Little Musician is perfect for the 0-2 crowd, and Preschool Prodigies is perfect for the 3-5 crowd. Both would be great for surrounding ages and older kids who have had very little music exposure.
As a side note, Preschool Prodigies has been better for my husband, who still struggles with singing on key at times. Sorry honey, it's true. You should hear how far he has come since we were first married. When we got Little Musician, I thought it would be perfect for him, but he has a hard time matching pitches that are an octave higher than his vocal range. Where Mr. Rob is a guy, Michael has been able to participate a lot better. On the flip side, fathers aren't the target audience, little kids are, but my kids have not struggled at all to sing an octave higher than Mr. Rob, especially with the bells being in their own range. I think little kids pick up on these kinds of things better than adults. My husband never learned to sing as a child and he has had to unlearn bad habits as much as anything else. I'm proud of him for making the effort and for practicing along with the kids. He's man enough to learn from a preschool curriculum and laugh with the kids at the humor designed for them. My husband actually plays the piano fairly well, so he's not unmusical, it's just the singing/hearing aspect that has been an issue for him. Bottom line is, if there are Dads who want to learn with their kids, Preschool Prodigies is definitely the best of the three.
Where do my own materials fit into this picture? Well, I'll tell you straight up that the materials on Teaching Children Music are not as fully integrated into a step-by-step curriculum like Little Musician and Preschool Prodigies, although this is something we are definitely working on. As it stands, our materials are more eclectic, which is why we have begun offering the separate elements of our membership site as individual products. However, by being eclectic, we have been able to make a wider variety of stand-alone activities, such as our board games, mini courses, and printables for specific concepts. For the teacher who already has a curriculum in place and is looking for supplemental materials, we will be the best fit, especially if the students are in the k-12 range. My materials compliment the other two very well, but I have not zeroed in on any age group or skill set. There's a little bit of this and that, something for everybody. The beauty of Little Musician and Preschool Prodigies is that they picked a very specific target audience and absolutely nailed it with a full-curriculum approach. If you have a preschooler, I really doubt that you'll find a better music product out there than Preschool Prodigies. Mr. Rob has zeroed in on this age group and has thoroughly and richly provided a curriculum that preschoolers will love and learn from. I'm so grateful to have had the chance to review his product and use it with my own kids! And Rob has been an awesome colleague to work with too- it's always great to make new friends. He's as awesome off-screen as he is on.
Mr. Rob from Preschool Prodigies is back for another special giveaway- this time a lucky winner will be receiving a year's access to their premium content, aptly called "The Playground". Mr. Rob is a professional percussionist who has created an entire year's curriculum for preschoolers based around the Chromanote desk bells.
Enter the giveaway below. This giveaway ends Friday at midnight, April 1st.
Access to the Preschool Prodigies Playground
is only available on their website. Get a discount with coupon code "TCM"
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