So often, music is perceived as something extra that you can expose your children to once they have mastered life’s basic skills. In reality, music creates space in our lives, and allows greater opportunities for us to foster the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual development of our children.
Music is not a separate entity to be learnt in a formal capacity, nor is it a specific vocational calling for a select few. Music is more than that. It is core to many areas of life, and has the remarkable ability to lift our moods, to motivate, encourage, soothe and heal.
When complimented with opportunities to engage in sensory play, music can assist in the development of bodily and spatial awareness, logical thinking, linguistic expression and emotional intelligence. It can also nurture self confidence, creativity, personal and social freedom, and a strong sense of identity. Music facilitates bonding between children and their significant others, laying the foundations of mutual respect and harmonious relationships.
These are the kinds of early experiences that lend themselves to lifelong learning, personal success, the understanding and appreciation of values, and a deep sense of inner happiness.
So instead of waiting until your child reaches a certain age, or appears to be responsive enough to engage in music, start now by using some of these simple ideas to help get you started:
- Make music a part of your bedtime ritual. Play a CD in your child’s room to help her relax and fall asleep. This can also help you to unwind.
- Expose your child to a wide variety of musical styles. Don’t feel that it needs to be classical music or lullabies exclusively – try some jazz, country, blues.
- Turn on the music and dance with your child! Do a waltz, line dancing, rock and roll or whatever you like. Improvise! Your baby will love the physical sensations of swaying, rocking and bouncing to music! Not to mention having fun with you!
- Sing to your baby, even if you think you can’t!
- Expose your baby to a live performance so she can see and hear how music is created. Although most indoor concerts aren’t conducive to infants and toddlers, there are outdoor music festivals for children of all ages.
- Invest in some simple musical instruments such as rhythm sticks, shakers, bells and drums of all shapes and sizes. Let your baby explore the different sounds that each instrument makes. Build your own music box and create some homemade instruments. Use a saucepan lid, tin cans, a wooden spoon, a sealed container filled with colourful pasta shells, a didgeridoo made out of a cardboard roll, decorated using crayons. Describe the instruments and the sounds they make.
- Take an early childhood music class with your baby or toddler. Join in and have fun. Let your youthful joy shine through to your child!
- Find musical resources that foster emotional and spiritual development. Choose music with positive and uplifting messages that build self esteem and resilience.
- Introduce songs and rhythmic chants that have actions your baby can watch or do with you, such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. Repetition is a vital method of learning for young babies. Watching them make connections is a wonderful experience – their little fingers may open and shut when you least expect it, and it will warm your heart with delight.
We all want to give our children the very best of everything life has to offer, and encourage them every step of the way. One of the most important ways to do this is by complimenting our day to day routines and rituals with a variety of musical experiences. In the process, you will strengthen connections with your child, while nurturing a deeper appreciation for the complex interconnectedness and beauty of the world around them.
So toss aside your preconceptions of your own musical ability or whether your baby is old enough, and remember that even though you may not sing like Elvis Presley, in the ears of your child you sound like a star.
Happy singing, dancing, playing and music making.