Making music with children
This topic is very close to my heart. I grew up in a family where we were surrounded by music. My dad came from a musical family and sang all the time. We sang in the car, around the dinner table at family events, and many of my mom and dad's friends were musicians. I was singing rounds, descants and harmony by the time I was three years old. I went on to indoctrinate my own children into a musical world as well. Their dad and I played in rock & roll bands, and they came to gigs with us. But, I also sang about everything, as my dad had. Now, I teach Music Together, teaching and encouraging other families to become musical. As far as I'm concerned, I couldn't have a better job.
In the past, communities came together to sing and dance. Families sang and played instruments together. They passed along their histories through songs. Even during the Alaskan Gold-rush in the late 1800s, when prospectors had to scale over high mountains and cross raging rivers carrying their belongings on their backs or on sleds, they brought whatever instruments they had to pass the evening hours. They even dismantled pianos and hauled the pieces over the treacherous terrain to erect dance halls in the "cities". And, people flocked to these dance halls. Actually, those were the establishments that made the most money during that time.
So, why is this? Music brings people together. It gives a temporary respite from hardships and soothes aching hearts. Music teaches history, makes workloads lighter and makes everything a little easier. We all have a constant rhythm beating inside of us as our hearts pump blood throughout our bodies. We connect with all other rhythms as well. But over time, some of us have lost our deep connection to the rhythms around us. We no longer have the need to make our own entertainment. We can play music on our stereo systems or on our phones. We can watch videos of concerts on the web. And, we are often forgetting about live music. Our children are born with an innate sense of rhythm. They automatically start to move to music. Even though they can't yet match the rhythms they are hearing, they have to move.
I learned early on that my life as a parent was much easier when I sang. I sang during diaper changes and made up songs about going on the potty during that transition from diapers. I sang my children into and out of their clothes, and I sang to get their attention. There are so many great songs out there that can be altered to fit your need. Today, I went to a preschool where the theme for the week is winter clothing. We did the "Hokey Pokey" with different outdoor clothing items: put your mittens in; put your mittens out; put your mittens in and shake them all about ... I also changed the words to "The Wheels on the Bus" singing, "The hat on my head it keeps me warm, keeps me warm, keeps me warm. The hat on my head it keeps me warm, all winter long." Don't you think that's a much easier way to convince your child to wear a hat than demanding and possibly entering into a power struggle?
There have certainly been times when I forgot the easy way and caused myself a lot of grief and more work. We will all do that sometimes. The moment overtakes us, maybe we're running late or have had a rough day. That's okay. The more we can remember to fill our lives with music, the easier it will get until it, hopefully, becomes second nature. I hear many parents worry about the lack of arts in schools now. I worry too, but I know that we can make up for that by including the arts in our home lives. Children learn by example. Why not model music making and dancing at home? What child doesn't like to dance with their parents? Not only did I love dancing with my parents, I loved seeing them dancing with each other. Then we are not only modeling music making, we are modeling love for each other, a wonderful thing for them to see. So how about having a family dance party tonight?
Here's a good start:
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