Friday, August 10, 2012

The "Spelling Piano"

Here is my very first “slap it together” idea (see my last post) to share with the world: “The Spelling Piano.”

Purpose: motivate your kid to look at alphabet letters, spell words, find letters on a keyboard (both a piano keyboard and a computer keyboard)

Cost: cheap, if you have a toy piano. Or find one at a yard sale or thrift shop. Also something that is FREE. (You'll see later on in the post.) If you do not have alphabet stickers, you could use a permanent marker.  

How to do it: Put stickers on a toy piano. Click on a link for a free cool download.

Time required: depends on what your kids are doing at the time. If they are all asleep, this will take probably 5 minutes total. Maybe less. No mess, no clean up. Love it.

I would like to call it something more catchy, like “The Mystery Piano,” or “Spelling Music” but it’s not at all mysterious, and “spelling music” just makes me think “M-U-S-I-C.” So I guess I can’t slap together a good title, just a possible idea. Here is the idea I slapped together:

Piano with alphabet keyboard stickers.

I spent a buck on this poor pink piano at a yard sale, which has gotten little or no attention since I drug it home one early Saturday morning over a year ago. I thought my kids would love it. Lilli used to have a Little Tykes Light Up Piano, which she absolutely LOVED and played with for hours. Sadly, it broke and the company does not make it anymore, so I could not find a replacement. I saw this cute pink piano at a yard sale and brought it home for her as a substitute. But she would not even play with it. She didn’t even give it a chance. It does not light up. The demo songs were different. It just wasn’t the same. She plays our real piano often, and we can’t live without music. But this pink piano went into the pile of boring, I-don’t-want to-play-with-that toys.

About to have another yard sale myself, I held it for a moment before tossing it into the pile in the garage and tried to imagine what it could become if I breathed a little educational or therapeutic life into it. I counted the keys. Drat, only 22 white keys. Would be perfect if there were 26 for the letters of the alphabet. However, I tried it anyway. I took alphabet stickers and placed them on the keys. WXY and Z had to have a section of their own up on the sharps and flats, but that might be OK. Then I tried it out on the girls. We spelled out our names. We liked the way they sounded, hearing their names as a “song.” I spelled out “Mommy,” which had a realistic off-key, shrieky ending. 

Being a person who can read and play music, I paused for a minute to wonder if this would mess up my kids later on in life when I force them to take piano lessons and they tell their piano teacher, “This is a Z! My mommy told me that!”

But I quickly dismissed the idea because this piano does not focus on teaching a child that the keys have letter names. It is more about finding the letters of the alphabet and tricking, I mean, encouraging kids to spell out words, with added musical fun.

You, dear reader, could make this idea so much better, especially if you happen to have a piano with 26 white keys. Or maybe you might like to mix it up and include a bunch of the black (or purple) keys. The point of the spelling piano is to get your child to touch letters, press keys, and spell words while listening to the notes and “songs” the words make.  This would be most motivating to the child that loves music, loves the sound of the piano, and loves the feeling of pressing the keys and creating a song. It would NOT be good for a child that was currently taking piano lessons or any other beginning music lessons, because it would mess them up big time.

The best thing about this piano to me was that it was a stepping stone to the next, much much better idea. So slapping something together does have its benefits.

I wondered if some other much-smarter-than-me mom out there had already come up with this idea ages ago, so I google-imaged it. I did not find a beat up, yard sale toy piano with alphabet stickers on it, but I DID find something totally cool that I am excited to share with you: a free program that turns your computer keyboard into a piano while you type! It is called "Baby Computer Piano." It is the same idea. Each key on your computer keyboard is turned into a piano note. It sounds like a real piano! It is even better than the yard sale piano, but I’m not throwing the toy piano in the yard sale yet. There is still something to be said for using a toy that does not involve “screen-time.”

I have already downloaded the “Baby Piano” program and played with it, and my computer has not crashed. I love it, my kids love it, and the best part was it was FREE. I guess I should put a disclaimer out there, that I am usually wary of downloading free programs in the event that it has a scary file-eating virus hidden inside. But I am not that computer virus savvy, so some other smarter-than-me mom out there can figure that out too. Days later, my computer is fine, and the program is still fun.Here is a screen shot of it:

Screen Shot of Baby Piano program. I typed "HELLO" but it is hard to see in green.

While you “play” the keyboard, the letters come up on the screen. They are green and not that easy to see, so that is one part I would change if I could. Also every single key has a note, and when you push the space bar the letter “N” comes up. It makes it hard to type more than one word or a short sentence. Otherwise, it’s super, and it gets kids motivated to look at the keyboard and press keys. If you want to play the notes in order, you have to find them on the keyboard - a great way to teach kids the typing keyboard.

You can play more than one note at a time, even "chords." I think this would be a great program for people who are just starting out with trying to get a child to learn how to type, to familiarize them with the keyboard while making it fun and motivating. For us personally, it is perfect because we are always looking for ways to encourage Lilli to type.

This program has the added bonus that you can apparently have your child sit on your lap and “play” the piano, while you continue to surf the web at the same time. I personally do not enjoy trying to do anything on the computer with someone in my lap, but maybe that’s because all of my kids weight more than 35 pounds and squirm too much.

Here is the link for the free Baby Piano download:

So what do you think?  

1 comment:

  1. You are so clever! I can't wait to hear about your other peojects.