Wooden Egg Shaker
'Egg Shakers' are a popular musical prop for introducing the concepts of tempo and rhythm.
Many different 'Egg Shakers' are available but I fell in love with this one because of its natural beauty. Many others are plastic or covered in decorations but this one allows the natural beauty of wood to take centre stage! The light, wooden appearance allows the Egg Shaker to look as beautiful as it sounds. It also ensures that it fits in harmoniously with the aesthetics of a Montessori environment.
The 'Egg' is approximately 6cm in height and the ovoid shape fits comfortably inside a young child's hand.
The child's motor control is exercised as he or she shakes the egg to elicit a sound. The Wooden Egg Shaker can be manipulated by either hand, allowing the child an opportunity to refine the coordination of both sides of the body!
The simplicity of the 'Egg' design removes the risk of distraction, making it the perfect 'first' instrument for young children to master musical concepts;
- The child can use the Wooden Egg Shaker to attempt different tempos - a very fast 'presto', a moderately quick 'moderato' or a slow 'adagio' (these use of these terms are optional extras of course!). A child who is independently exploring the Wooden Egg Shaker will likely stumble across these different tempos spontaneously - experimenting with shaking the Egg very fast or making slow, steady beats. Under the guidance of an adult the child can be encouraged to deliberately create and maintain particular tempos. The child can also learn to keep the beat in time to a piece of music that is playing.
- The child can attempt to create various rhythms. The adult first demonstrates a short rhythmic pattern and encourages the child to repeat this pattern. The child can also be encouraged to engage in independent exploration by listening to musical pieces and attempting to recreate the rhythm of one of the instruments playing.
- The child can learn how to stop! This might sound silly but it the skill of stopping the sound is as important as the skill of creating it! It is essentially a representation of the fundamental skill of 'self-control' - which is most certainly a valuable ability for a young child. An adult can help to guide a child to stop at a particular cue - such as the end of a song or a hand signal from the adult. This is a great exercise in self-control and is also a subtle precursor to a potential future of musical activity - a member of a band, or an orchestra, must also exercise self-control, or follow the conductor's baton, to stop in time with his or her fellow musicians!
The Wooden Egg Shaker can also be a beautiful object to explore in a 'Basket of Treasures' or 'Discovery Basket'. Its smooth, curved exterior excites the tactile senses, while the sound hiding within encourages movement and activity.
The use of the Egg Shaker also introduces an opportunity to discuss the new language of the 3-dimensional shape of an 'ovoid'.
Please note - in Australia the term 'oval' and 'ovoid' refer to rounded shapes where one end is broader than the other, like an egg. The oval is symmetrical along one axis, but not the other. The term 'ellipse' or 'ellipsoid' is given to rounded shapes that are equal at the top and bottom, like an Australian Rule football. The ellipse is symmetrical along both axis.
In some other countries, including the United States, the term 'oval' is used to describe the rounded shape that is equal at the top and bottom (which would technically be called an 'ellipse' here in Australia). As a result, there are many products - such as shape puzzles - which are available in Australia that refer to an 'ellipse' as an 'oval'. This causes a lot of confusion for children and adults alike! Language does evolve, and it can be hard to definitively state a 'right' or 'wrong' when popular use contradicts technical origins, but I personally choose to maintain the use of the technical 'ovoid' for an egg shape.