Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rock & Roll Baby!

Music is so incredibly important.  At the beginning of every school year I talk to my students about the significance of music in our lives.  I point out to them that we may not eat the same foods as someone in a different part of the world or have the same traditions or speak the same language, but one thing we all have in common is music.  We all have some type of music in our lives in one way or another.   

Most children who love music will not become prodigies, but they will all love to sing, dance, and try out instruments.  As an elementary music teacher, I am still surprised when I realize that many of my students don't know traditional children's songs that I learned when I was little such as "She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain" or "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt."  Music is a natural love for children and supporting this interest for your child is super easy and fun!

Here are some ideas:

1.  Sing to your child.  The first sound an unborn baby hears is the mama's heartbeat.  It is rhythmic and it is comforting.  Research tells us that unborn babies can hear their mother's voice in the womb.  Start singing and swaying to music then!  Babies (and most children) don't know a bad singer when they hear one.  They just love songs, and babies and young children especially will think a mama or daddy's voice singing to them is the most wonderful sound in the world. 

2.  Do nursery rhymes and finger plays with your child.  Kids love nursery rhymes and they are even more fun when there are motions to go with them. Add your own motions with claps, pats on your legs, or stomping your feet. Be creative! Rhythm and rhyme are actually great for preparing young children for learning to read.

3.  Move to the music! Dance, dance, dance!!  Even if you claim to be a rotten dancer, again, your child doesn't recognize that.  They will just see a fun time with their mama moving to the music and being silly together.  Pick them up and hold them while you dance around to their favorite music or yours.  Have them stand on your feet and hold their hands while you move your feet to the music.  Hold their hands while they face you and do the twist together.  Dance with scarves, stuffed animals, or stick your pajama pants on your head and dance around like that!  They will love it!  (Added Bonus - great exercise for the grown ups too!)

4.  If your child is interested in playing an instrument, check into it!  Depending on the school district, most public schools will provide a band screening where they will do an interest and skills test with fourth or fifth graders.  They will then report back to the parents with recommendations as to which instruments the child will "fit" best with.  Check the phone book too.  There are many places that offer private piano, guitar, violin, or harp lessons.  Musical instruments can often be purchased in great condition even if they are used.  Many music stores also offer instruments through a rental program with an affordable monthly or yearly fee.

5.  Play music as your child falls asleep at night.  Many nights my son asks to listen to music as he falls asleep.  I always put in an instrumental CD with a beat that is a little slower - too peppy and he'll never get to sleep!  Sometimes if a child has had a bad dream the night before or has had a hard day, he or she may have a hard time settling in to bed at night.  I know I do!  Music helps make that transition from the busyness of the day to the peacefulness of the night.

6.  Go to concerts or musicals together.  A great way to expose your child to a variety of musical styles is to go to concerts or musicals together.  Our local high school has a musical every spring that my son looks forward to.  He enjoys seeing the big kids sing and dance.  Many churches have cantatas or children's programs.  Lots of towns hold a "summer concerts in the park" type of program.  These programs are often inexpensive and sometimes even free.  If you have the resources, tickets to see Hannah Montanna or Justin Bieber will really get your junior higher excited!  Consider what music is appropriate ahead of time and accompany them to the performances.  Again, you will make memories they will cherish.

7.  Let your child make his/her own play list on your computer or ipod.  Kids love to make their own choices and allowing your child to pick out and download his or her own songs would make them feel very cool.  Again, make sure the songs they are choosing have kid appropriate lyrics. Kidz Bop produces CDs with popular songs that are on the radio but with the words changed to more appropriate kid-friendly lyrics. 

8.  Make up silly lyrics to familiar songs.  Yes! You can do it.  Take a song like "If You're Happy & You Know It" and change it to fit your circumstances...

Leave your shoes by the door, by the door.
Leave your shoes by the door, by the door.
Leave your shoes by the door, so there's no mud on the floor.
Leave your shoes by the door, by the door.

If you can sneak your child's name into the lyrics too, they will especially love that! 

9.  Make homemade instruments together.  Everything makes music.  Look around you - tapping a wooden spoon a pot, tapping a plastic Solo cup on a wood floor, shaking the car keys!  Also, don't limit yourself to instruments.  We can all make music any time - snapping our fingers, clapping our hands, tapping our knees or tapping our shoe on the floor, whistling, humming, making popping sounds with our mouths...Kids are great at making their own music!  Put those sounds together and create a rhythmic pattern!

10.  Listen for "songs" in nature.  Music is all around us - birds singing, dogs barking, wind blowing through the trees, water dripping or falling from the sky...really, it is everywhere!  Take your child for a "music walk" and have them listen for music in nature.

Exposing your kids to music can be quite easy and take very little planning.  Crank up the radio in the car, sing at the top of your lungs, and show your kids how much fun music can be!

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