Young children have a steady beat. It may be difficult to discern this because children are often asked to do things in a group. A child may not be able to match the group’s beat . . . or even “your” steady beat, but indeed each child has his or her "own” steady beat that will emerge when they alone are in control of setting the tempo.
Step 1 - Teacher is the model
Hold a small hand drum and a mallet. As you pick up the drum and hold it in proper playing position, talk about what you are doing. "I'm making a hanger with my hand. I'm placing the rim of the drum on the hangar. I'm putting my thumb on the top of the rim." Practice doing this a few times and invite the children to imitate you with an imaginary drum.
Play the hand drum with the mallet four times to establish tempo. Continue to play a steady beat and recite the chant below. Clicking here brings you to the chant with a drumbeat chart*.
Engine, engine number nine,
Going down Chicago line.
See it sparkle, see it shine,
Engine, engine number nine.
Step 2 - Child plays a steady beat
Hand the drum to a child. Ask the child to show you how to hold the drum properly. Hand the mallet to the child. (Make sure that the child is holding the mallet properly, too!) Ask the child to play a steady beat and after they start playing, you will recite the chant. Most children will establish their individual tempo in four beats. If the child does not, allow the child to play a little longer until you have determined the tempo. Recite the chant using the child's tempo.
If the child plays a very fast tempo, consider each drumbeat a microbeat (two microbeats equal every macrobeat shown on the drumbeat chart).
Allow all the children an opportunity to share their steady beat.
*The drumbeat chart can be made into a handout. Instruct the children to put their finger on each drum as they say the chant. (Say "drum" on the four introductory drumbeats.)