STORY FROM A DAD (as told by a mom)
A couple of weeks ago, a dad (who isn’t able to come to Music Together class) was spending some one-on-one time with his daughter (who IS able to come to class!). When he and his two-year-old got back home, he told the mom that he noticed their daughter doing something new–she was tapping along to music on the radio and going back and forth between a little beat and a big beat. She was experimenting with something we do a lot of in class–playing with the little/micro beats and the big/macro beats. This family just started coming to Music Together, and I’m so excited that their little girl has started fooling around with different beats on her own. EVEN MORE exciting is that her dad noticed what she was doing!! They’ve started playing with those levels of beat at home, too, which is fantastic reinforcement of what the little girl is learning right now (and also models having fun with music as a family).
TRY THIS AT HOME
It’s easy to play with levels of beat at home. Sing a song you like–on your own, or along with a CD or the radio–and just tap a beat along to the music, with your hands, with your feet, or even a with a pencil on a table. After a little bit, think “double-time” and tap a smaller beat. Then try doing that smaller beat with two hands (or pencils!) instead of one. Then, for a real pop of contrast, switch to a really big beat, tapping only at the beginning of each phrase in the music (don’t stress about it, just feel where the next “sentence” of the music starts). Honestly, it doesn’t matter at all if you’re getting the beat “right.” Just trying to get it is the important thing for your child to see. More than anything, have fun! Your child will probably start tapping along with you, too, which is great payback for your efforts.
TRY THIS AT HOME
So, we started off chanting about porridge, popcorn and ice cream. Then, we added matzoh balls, Chinese food, and guacamole. While you’re fixing dinner, or eating lunch, try chanting about the food you’re eating being hot, cold and nine days old.
Then, why not take it out of the kitchen? Here’s what one mom did this week: “Socks and shoes hot, socks and shoes cold, socks and shoes on my feet nine days old…” How fun! And stinky!! (Though, not perhaps as stinky as nine-day-old guacamole….Eeeeew…)
Last week, I gave a presentation on early childhood music development to a group of grown-ups (pre-school parents and teachers) in Jersey City, NJ. At one point, we all sang “Clap Your Hands” (doing all sorts of clapping, tapping, beeping, and stomping together). After the song I asked: “If you can imagine that you all were children during that song, what do you think you were learning?” The group gave a variety of answers — all pretty profound — but the one that has stuck with me is this, from a mom: “I learned that it’s OK not to be shy.”
I learned from her that, whether we are children or adults, when we are allowed to play — to just be silly and goofy in our music-making, regardless of whether or not we’re “doing it right” — then it feels safe to make a sound, make a movement, experiment, and explore. When we provide this kind of supportive, informal, play-based environment — in a Music Together class and at home — we are giving our children a safe space to be musical in their own way.
Keep making music at home in that kind of goofy, silly, non-judgmental way — it’s a huge gift to your children (and to you!).
[A NOTE ABOUT BEING "SHY:" Some children -- and grown-ups -- will certainly be what we call "shy" in class (or in other settings). I think that the Jersey City mom was talking more about risk-taking than actual shyness. For my own shy child, at Music Together she was able to take her own kind of risks -- like leaving my lap to get an instrument, or making eye contact with the teacher -- because she felt so supported in the class setting. However, she never stopped being "shy."]
Last week, a grandma brought her grandson to class (giving his mom a much-needed break), and she had a great time. After class, she asked this question about her grandson: “Is he usually this shy in class?” Interestingly, I didn’t experience the not-yet-two-year-old boy as “shy” at all — he left his grandma’s lap many times to roam about the room, get instruments out of the box and put them back, and explore my guitar; he bounced, rocked, and swayed to the music; he sang notes here and there; and he watched me intently throughout the class. I suspect it’s this last behavior that the grandma interpreted as “shy.” When he’s at home, she said, her grandson is loud and energetic and has a generally big presence. Seeing him with a different kind of energy in class was — well — different. It makes sense to me: We do all kinds of things in class that don’t usually happen in a concentrated 45-minute span at home, and many children respond to class activities by absorbing, taking it all in, and storing up the musical information to experiment with later. That’s not the same as being shy, though — which is great to know! I told the grandma about another mom who described her child as being “on record” in class and “on play” at home. “Oh,” said the grandma, “That makes so much sense!” Now, she can notice her grandson’s “record” time as the way he’s processing input, without labeling him as anything more than “taking it all in.” I’m sure that once she got him home, her grandson pressed his “play” button…and turned the volume up to 11.
Changing the words to songs, or making up entirely new words altogether, is a fantastic way to play with music: It’s easy, it’s fun, it’s goofy, and kids LOVE it. Young children learn through play (so the more we play with music, the more about music they learn), and when we play with changing or inventing lyrics, one aspect of music-making they are learning is, believe it or not, composing. Composing! Isn’t that something that only musical geniuses do? People like Mozart, Bach and Beethoven? Nope. Everyone can make up music (not as scary as ”compose”), and won’t it be wonderful for our children to grow up knowing, as a matter of fact, that they can create (compose) their own music? By singing/chanting our own words to songs/chants, we’re giving our children the clear message that composing our own music is just something we do, like brushing our teeth before we go to bed or looking both ways before crossing the street.
So, go ahead and row that goat right on up that tree. You’ll take your kids on a wild ride that will help them develop their unique musicality and creative freedom. It’ll be fun to see how you and your kids get that goat down from up there…
Goat clipart courtesy www.Clker.com.