Making music is child's play
Fostering your child’s development and focusing on growing your child’s brain can be a bit overwhelming! Before you read on, rest assured that when I speak about “growing a child's brain” I am simply identifying opportunities to enhance their environment with the addition of some conscious musical experiences on your behalf. As your child’s brain naturally grows new connections and prunes unused ones, we want to ensure that the neurons responsible for musical processing are stimulated and nurtured. Why? Because making, loving and feeling music is a human right. Once you have it, you have it for your whole lifetime.
Neural studies show that singing to a baby (even out of key, pitchy, made-up-words songs) can make babies calmer and happier. Imagine that! You can grow your baby’s brain while singing your favourite song. There’s more, when we sing to our little ones, we regulate our breathing and heart rate and if they’re snuggling in close to us, their bodies tune in and match what we are doing. Amazing, huh?! Singing to your child is a massive win-win! Here are some super easy to implement tips to help your child’s musical intelligence grow and help you to become a more confident musical model, through play.
Focused listening, otherwise known as active listening, requires a few extra elements than just being in the same room as the person talking. Active listening means you are:
- Fully concentrating
- Understanding what is being said
- Responding (verbally or non-verbally)
- Retaining (and organising) the information being communicated
With all these elements in play, it is easy to see why active listening is a skill rather than a natural response. It’s actually critically important for most learning. So, how do we build the skill of active listening in children so that they can not only communicate more effectively with their peers but so that they may develop better listening habits with their family? Through play, of course. There are lots of musical games that you can play that have variations in volume, stops (silence), tempo (speed) changes and information hidden within that the children have to find. All of these games encourage active listening. Want to play? Head to the end and you’ll find a couple of games and links to the audio.
We Are the Music Makers
Us, not them. Making music is not only for the talented. For the wealthy and for those whose parents and parents, parents were musical too. It’s for everyone. Did you know that the auditory cortex (the part of the brain responsible for hearing, understanding and organising speech) firstly develops in utero to process information as music, and prepares the cortex better for speech and auditory comprehension. Put simply, music makes thinking in language easier and more effectively organised.
We are born musical. When we practice doing it and being musical our brain strengthens those connections and we get better at it. It’s never too late to start, but the earlier, the better. You don’t need any tools, just your body and your voice. Our voice is by far the most democratic musical instrument, everyone has one. Everyone can use it.
Making and enjoying music together doesn’t have to be another task on your to-do list and can be easily incorporated if we make it one of our habits. Want to make music every day, be sure to add a lullaby to your routine. Once that’s second nature add a bath time song. Before you know it, you’ll be spending quality, brain-growing time in each other’s company, singing and playing.
Another simple way to develop your child’s musical ear is through exposure to lots of high quality music. By that I mean listen and experience as many genres as you can find by the very best artists. Everything from across the globe is at your fingertips at a click of a button, we are so lucky! Listen to everything from calipso, 1930s jazz, music from cultures near and far. Every place has a different sound through their folk music and their pop music evolution often draws on this. You never know, perhaps cuban music, music from the Congo or swoon worthy folk music played on violins from the Czech Republic is your absolutely favourite thing, just waiting to be discovered.
Musical exposure helps children’s brains learn to organise the colourful world of sounds. Pitch, melodic and harmonic patterns, beat, rhythms, form, texture, timbre (quality of sound), the list goes on and it’s ALL brainfood.
Once you get started, you’ll discover opportunities for making music everywhere. There are songs for about just about anything and everything and if there is not, then just make one up to suit! You won’t always get it right, and it’s important for your children to see that too. Making mistakes is being human and a really good way for us to learn. Being brave enough to make mistakes is one of the creative art’s great gifts, building resilience in our children and in ourselves. Be brave, sing!
Want to Play
Here’s a link to Witchety Jamboree, a favorite song from our kinder and school kid’s classes that the kids love. To play, you’ll need at least two people. One to sing and as many as you like to find. The finders look around the space and get ready to find different coloured objects. The singer says a colour within the song and the finders have a to find it. The finders have to think quickly. Can they find the things before the song ends?
Another super fun way to include active listening into your play is to move your bodies. This song, Wake Up You Lazy Bones will even the most active kid puffing and panting in no time. It’s great for active listening because there’s a huge tempo shift from the first to the second section. To play, simply jump up and down for the first bit then when you hear “The cows are gone” kneel on one knee. “The sun is hot” kneel on two knees. “I think I’ll rest” lower one elbow to the floor. “‘Til they come back” lower the other elbow. Then, get back up as fast as you can and start jumping like crazy again. The song works as a loop, so you just sing and play until you’re all pooped, it’s great cardio and so much more fun than burpees.
Written by Julie Murray
Sounds Like This
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