Te Pahū man Tony Wyeth's new interactive musical show uses original Kiwi songs to aid brain development for three to six-year-olds.
New Zealand children need more movement to music according to the Waikato actor and musician.
"The first job I had out of drama school was with The Ugly Shakespeare Company — three actors in a van, touring from Cape Reinga to Bluff, performing modernised and comical Shakespeare to schools," said Tony.
"I was into it from the get-go. There's an honesty that children have, that as a performer you can't help but embrace. The energy you get off them is incredible. There's nothing like it."
Tony's wife is French, and he spent five and a half years in France. There he toured his Sing Along with Tony show around the primary schools in the Loire region.
"It was well received by the children and teachers, mainly because it used live music.
"In the show, the first thing the children would see as they arrived was me, sitting on a treasure chest, gently playing my acoustic guitar. That instantly set the tone. Their eyes light up, all their attention was on the guitar and me — it fascinates children. When I sang their eyes get even wider. I had their attention and respect."
The experience of performing English language songs and music to French school children prompted him to start his own YouTube channel and produce his first album.
Now, after seeing first-hand the benefits of movement and learning while working at a rural primary school, he has created an interactive musical show based on the theme of Crossing the Midline.
It refers to the ability to reach across the middle of the body with the arms and legs crossing over to the opposite side. It helps build pathways in the brain and is an important skill for development of various motor and cognitive skills.
Reading, writing, and many self-care and daily living skills require crossing the midline, for example, reaching toward your foot to put on a shoe and sock with both hands.
"Basically, I go to a centre or school, teach the children my original actions songs and then we perform the songs. The actions are all designed to get the children moving limbs from one side of the body to the other, horizontally and vertically, ie crossing the midline.
"Children's language and physical development benefits so much when they are engaged and having fun with songs and music," said Tony.
"I wanted to create a live show that would offer an exciting new resource for early childhood and new entrant educators."
With over 25 years in the entertainment industry, Tony has just about done it all, from street theatre to professional theatre. From no budget short films, to big budget feature films with Oscar winning actors (Geoffrey Rush) as well as TV advertising and TV series.
Tony learnt violin and drums as a child which followed on to seven years as drummer for various original bands in England including Smokey Feel and Johnny Fist.
He's composed soundtracks for theatre and short film and performed solo in France and England.
The YouTube channel content uses the resources he created for the French show and offers a new video every two weeks.
There are original songs from an eBook he was commissioned to compose for and traditional songs, like Row Row Row Your Boat and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
"When songs are relevant and mean something to children, the learning they convey is relevant and is remembered. Through songs, they learn and retain sentences with verbs, new vocabulary, expressions and word stress.
"A lot of the songs I perform have actions that bring in muscle memory, embedding the new knowledge even further in their brains. Learning songs in a group helps train their ears to listen closely to the sounds of new words and to learn new melody.
"It increases aural perception and exposes children to wider culture associated with the various genres of music out there.
"I enjoy obviously the reactions, the smiles and the belly laughs but with this show you also get to see progress. I challenge the children with physical crossing the midline actions that believe me, are not easy. When they persevere and can actually do them by the end of the show, it's very rewarding."
Check out singalongwithtony.com