Children love music, children thrive with music, children are missing out if they don't get music in their lives! And we're talking (singing?) about music as an active activity, not some electronics playing in the background
Sing to your baby. It doesn't matter how well you sing! Hearing your voice helps your baby begin to learn language. Babies love the patterns and rhythms of songs. And even young babies can recognize specific melodies once they've heard them.
Diane Bales, Ph.D
Building Baby's Brain: The Role of Music. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
You (yes, YOU, Mom and Dad!) can make music with your child! I'm not talking about performance-quality stuff, that's something else we adults all can enjoy. I'm referring to just plain old tapping and clapping and yapping. Singing and moving and grooving and all that music stuff makes us feel good, and it can make our children feel good as well. Makes them smarter, too, but that's just icing on the cake.
Sing with your child. As children grow, they enjoy singing with you. And setting words to music actually helps the brain learn them more quickly and retain them longer. That's why we remember the lyrics of songs we sang as children, even if we haven't heard them in years..
You can do that! Lullabys at bed-time, pop songs in the car, boistrous sea-chanties at bath-time, opera arias after dinner (NOT during, of course, that would be gouche).
You are (probably) not a professional actor, but you can do the meanest wolf and the silliest three little pigs when you read to your child. And that's totally fine because it's all about the story and sharing that story--sharing that moment--with you child. Same with singing a song: you aren't a pop star (are you?) put you can share a song--any song--with your child.
It's those shared experiences with you child that help her or his brain do the best developing!
Make some time to make music with your child every day!
I just finished reading an article by Paul G. Morehouse, an early childhood music specialist on the West Coast that reminds me of just how hard young children--toddlers, preschoolers--work and how serious they are about the work they do. We adults, in our contrariness, call our children's energetic work "play".
Young children are not solely music learners. After all, the music they make is real. Spontaneously and naturally, young children produce sounds and rhythms that conform to a song’s structure. For them, neither melodic nor rhythmic inaccuracies detract from the authenticity of music-making experiences.
Professor Morehouse is talking about musical activities, but the same "work-ethic" of youngsters holds true for all their various and sundry activities. We adults call it playing, and wish we could do more of it ourselves, but for your young child, playing is hard work. (Play is really the work of childhood." - Fred Rogers) All children, your child, don't experience play as, well, child's play. For them, it's what they do, with all their focus, all their heart, all their being.
Watch your child play. He or she isn't pretending, at least not the way we adults think of pretending--going through actions meant to look like we're doing something, while we aren't really doing it. Your child is really doing it, as far as he or she's concerned.
When adults (myself included) watch children playing instruments in one of our "play-along" jam sessions in music class, for example, we're watching children really playing instruments. Oh, sure, they don't necessarily sound so polished to our grown-up ears, but each child is not thinking that he or she is learning how to play an instrument ("Gosh, I don't sound very polished."), or how to make music ("I'm glad I'm in a music class learning how to play music better!"). He or she is really doing it ("I'm awesome!"), as far as they are concerned ("I'm playing the drum just the way Mom does!"). As Mr. Morehouse says, each child's performance is authentic, each is sincerely doing the best he or she knows how to do. Luckily, a child's temperament allows him or her to instantly--and more or less constantly--adjust and accept that he or she could do better. That's where the learning comes in. Although, mostly, your child is going to play it his or her way, over and over again. That's learning, too.
I've just described a music-activity situation, but of course your child is serious (not pretending) about everything he or she does. Reading a picture-book (that your child has memorized from hearing you read it to him or her so many times), giving "baby" (a doll or stuffed animal) a bath and putting "baby" to bed, sharing a simple activity with a sibling, "talking" to you in what comes out, unfortunately, as an unintelligible mumble. Even given that a very young child's speech is often unintelligible, you can be certain that your child is never mumbling the sentence "I'm just pretending/learning to talk to you." To them, the implied message is always, "I'm talking to you" or "I'm actually reading this book" or "I'm really making music".
This is a photo-essay about a 13-year-old girl who uses an eagle to hunt, just as her ancestors did. Plus she lives at the top of the world. The bird looks almost as large as the girl. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26969150
Not really anything to do with music, I wanted to share. I found these pictures emotionally touching.
Here's a quote from a research paper by Professor Susan Hallam, Institute of Education, University of London.
[There is] a strong case for the benefits of active engagement with music
throughout the lifespan. In early childhood there seem to be benefits for the development of
perceptual skills which effect learning language subsequently impacting on literacy which is
also enhanced by opportunities to develop rhythmic co-ordination. Fine motor co-ordination
is improved through learning to play an instrument. Music also seems to improve spatial
reasoning, one aspect of general intelligence which is related to some of the skills required in
You can read the whole paper, The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people or look for references and articles about it on the web, there are plenty. Or just read on and take away the point I want to make: Musical playtime is a vital part of your young child's daily routine. Like spinach, even more so, musical activities shared between you and your child are wonderful ways to bond with your child and to help your child's developing mind and developing body. Plus, music-making is a lot less messy than, say, creamed spinach and a LOT less green.
Make some time to make music with your child every day! (And consider a music-inspiring Music Together® class every week!)
I am sharing a music video with you that I put together for Halloween (although it wasn't done by Halloween, but that was the plan!) It is me singing a "round", a simple song that has built-in harmonies and counterpoint, if you get a bunch of people to sing it starting at different times. I didn't have a bunch of people with me at the moment, so I started singing it at different times myself. I put in some Halloween-themed pictures, none of them very scary. So, if you want to see how a musical round works and look at a bunch of not-very-scary Halloween-themed pictures, then the video link below will be just your cup of tea!
I came across this quote from a famous and admirable music teacher, from whom I derive much inspiration and insight. These words, on a good day, match what I feel about the work I do. (The not-so-good days are few and far between, fortunately!)
“Teaching music is not my main purpose. I want to make good citizens. If children hear fine music from the day of their birth and learn to play it, they develop sensitivity, discipline and endurance. They get a beautiful heart.”
This is an article I ran across at ScienceNews.org that discusses the natural rhythms that are inborn in infants. There is also a fascinating discussion of research on mother-infant "talk" and how there appears to be natural musical rhythms there as well. If you have an infant, after you read this article, you're going to be second-guessing everytime you play with your child!
I've been interviewed a few times by the press for various and sundry. Local papers, a national publication (for a business I was starting), once even by a theatre critic in the Sun-Times for a stage musical that I worked on in the city (um, that would be Chicago, not Lake Bluff). I was just interviewed by the Pioneer Press, which is being gracious enough to run an article about Mr. Mark's Music Together in a couple of their papers this week. (I'm blushing. Not really.) I never know how these are going to turn out. I must have said a thousand, maybe five thousand words about my new program, and the article will have, what, three or maybe four short quotes from me? Did I get what I wanted to say across to the interviewer? Did I bury her with words and she'll just choose tidbits at random? I sure hope I was grammatical in most of my responses. OMG, I hope I, like, didn't start, like, using the word 'like', like, too much! (I do that when I get nervous.)
I have to say--regardless of what the interviewer quotes me as saying--I think this is the interview I talked the most at. I was just clipping along like a sibilant streak, gushing about early childhood and music, Music Together philosophy, what's great about the classes, etc. It was pretty easy to gush, mainly for two reasons: one, the reporter didn't try to shush me up (not too much) and two, I've been gushing about this stuff for years. It just gets easier, even though I'm really not much of a public speaker, I get shy, I get tongue-tied (I have terrible tip-of-the-tongue syndrome), I stop making sense after a while. (Stayed tuned in a couple of sentences.) But, believe you me, when I get up on my soap box about something I really believe in, it's hard to get me to step down. And my work with families and music-making is one of those things I really believe in. As in, I've seen so many families have so much fun making music. I've seen so many children using music in their development and becoming happier, more centered children for it. Not just in music classes, but families I meet at parties, performances, parks, etc. who enjoy singing together where ever (home, school, church, picnics), who actually enjoy taking their kids to lessons, who enjoy singing Beatles songs over and over because that's what one of their kids is learning to play on the guitar, or piano or diggereedoo.
Listening to music is like reading the paper or a news feed or blog. Participating in making music is like writing the article or being interviewed or blogging, more fulfilling and generally more fun.
Being photographed for the article, however, was like sight-reading music, at least for me. Much more stressful than the interview.