Inspirational blogs · My year

Making Music with Small Children

I want my daughter to love school, I really do. I want Sunday nights to be as happy as Saturday mornings, all because she finds school to be a fascinating and engaging place full of wonder and fun. And thanks to the efforts of many a parent and teacher who are currently making a stand against all that is preventing schools from being such inspiring places, there is a chance that this may be the case.

But at 6 months old, I also realise that it starts (and of course continues) with me, my husband, and all we do at home. The home learning environment after all has been found to be one of the strongest indicators for future development and attainment. Most important to me is instilling a love of learning itself, whether that be used in the pursuit of a particular interest or exploring a new fascination, because with that you have the keys to the kingdom, and a gift that will literally last a lifetime.

Now music is one of those things that is completely wonderful for children. I remember going to a lecture a few years back that demonstrated how neuroscience has captured brain activity whilst music-making. Whereas during most activities you see specific parts of the brain ‘light up’, whilst making music whole pockets of the brain are active, and in turn developed. Which isn’t surprising when you think about it, through making music you are potentially engaging in; small actions, large movements, using words in interesting ways, discovering something about how materials make sounds, or how the world around you works, exploring feelings, developing musicality, using memory, expanding vocabulary, the list goes on. Plus there’s all the smiling and laughing and having fun. So I’ve revisited my previous life as a community musician, and pulled out a couple of activities to share that are great for music-making with small children.

Singing. One of the most lovely things you can share with a small baby. I’ve previously written a post about a pirate song that can be used across a wide range of ages, you can read all about it here. But it’s a worth a look because I’ve included some footage of singing with my daughter when she was just 11 weeks old. And whilst her interactions are subtle, they are definitely there; the wriggles and the recognition, it’s all the beginnings of a lifetime of enjoying taking part in music-making.

And here she is at 5 months, sharing that age-old classic ‘Row Your Boat’. The camera angle isn’t great, but I think it still captures the development that’s taken place. And through this simple song there is an abundance of learning; vocabulary and sentence structure, pitch, rhythm and rhyming, large body movements, the anticipation of the start of the song and the scream at the end (oh how I look forward to when she joins in with that scream!) Most of all its the sheer loveliness of good eye contact and smiles and all that wonderful attachment / bonding and simply having fun together. All from one simple song…

And that’s the wonder of music-making with young children. Ad hoc, tiny snatches of time here and there where you might sing this or bang that, but every ounce of it is contributing to well-being and development.

With older children, you might want to try making a ‘song box’. Collect up items that represent as many songs as you can think of. Then take turns to pick an item out of the box and sing the related song. It’s a great memory prompt for you, and can help smaller children choose what they want to sing at an age when memory recall is still developing. You can take a similar approach by creating your own song book too; collect or draw images of all your favourite songs and use to the same effect.

And of course you can always make up your own lyrics, particularly fun with songs that are very repetitive (and its such songs that are particularly good for smaller children because the constant repetition helps them to learn the words). A good one for this is the Farmers in his Den. We’re currently regularly making up ad hoc, slightly nonsense words like…

A lovely bubble bath

A lovely bubble bath

Oh my cherry pie

A lovely bubble bath

Or to reflect my current state of being, things such as …

A bagel and a brew

A bagel and a brew

Oh how your mummy loves

A bagel and a brew

Those few sentences, that fleeting moment, is doing so much for your child, it’s a wonderful thing.

And to finish, a quick note of thanks to all those parents and teachers who are making a stand this month against the current state of education, and all the unnecessary arduous testing and administration and plain barriers that prevent great teachers doing what they know to be most effective in helping our children to thrive at school. Thanks to your efforts, countless children you’ve never met, such as my lovely little girl, could step into an education system in a few years’ time that really will enable them to enjoy and succeed at school, which in turn is setting them up to enjoy and succeed in life. Thank you.

Proud to be linking up with:

Writing Bubble
Photo credit: mag3737 via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA
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2 thoughts on “Making Music with Small Children

  1. What a lovely post! The video is adorable and I can really see how much your daughter loves being sung to. I really believe in the power of music in all sorts of situations. I’ve sung ‘Morningtown ride’ by the seekers to all three of mine (having had my mum sing it to me as a child) and it’s calmed them down so many times. (If you don’t know it, do check it out – such a lovely song!) And you’re so right about the stimulating aspects of music too. Thanks for linking to #THISislearning and for joining in yesterday. I think all this stuff going in in education is so relevant to young kids – changes that are made now will (as you say) affect all their futures. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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