Making a Joyful Sound: Why You Should Play Music with Your Child

Whether you are classically trained or mortified by the idea of singing out loud, here’s a new excuse to make some noise.

Let’s take a journey to another time and culture. Imagine you grew up in Georgia (not the state, the country) and daily, your family, your neighbors, and strangers on the street spontaneously burst into, not just song, but polyphonic harmony. You only need to hear the phrase to imagine what it sounds like. It’s magic.

Or perhaps you are a waiter in New Orleans 150 years ago. You didn’t read or write, but you could pick up any common instrument and join the band, singing, dancing, and laughing the night away.

Now come back to the present. In our world, art making and in particular, music making, have become “professionalized.” Culturally, we have decided that there are those who are naturally creative and talented, and then there are the rest of us. That first group gets to play music.

Even stranger, this is something that happens as we age. When was the last time you got together with people and sang for fun outside of your child’s circle time? If you are like most busy parents, it’s been too long to even remember. Maybe someone’s birthday?

 

When was the last time you played music for the pure fun of it?

Research teaches us that music has profound benefits for our developing minds. It strengthens and activates connections between different parts of the brain, it aids in teaching cooperation, and it makes us happy.1

We also know from science that children learn by watching the adults around them, and that the limbic brain must have a sense of connection in order to latch onto an activity2. Are we putting these two things together yet?

It’s not about being good at making music; it’s about releasing our expectations and seeing what happens. It’s also about listening and joining. If we want our kids to experience joy, they need to watch us give ourselves that same permission.

Consider the following ideas for exploring sound with your child in a way that will also light up different parts of your brain. DiscoBratz loves a good dance party, so we’ve included some favorite musicians to supplement your music journey.

  • Make some instruments of your own. For smaller kids, a makeshift maraca, wearable bells, or a drum are simple projects that produce some sounds that really make children vibrate. Check out this super-easy Ocean Drum from the good people at Kinder Art: http://www.kinderart.com/across/oceandrum.shtml
  • Go to the Symphony. We suggest waiting until around four or five, but there are often inexpensive children’s programs at many symphony halls and orchestras. Community colleges are often gold for traveling groups. For kids it is totally mind-blowing to hear how the instruments work together.
  • Seek out other music venues. Even small towns will regularly have local players performing at family-friendly events like the farmers’ market. The great thing about this less formal experience is that the kids can chat with the musicians after the performance.
  • Play with beats. There are some really fun apps and programs for kids where they can experiment with looping sounds. Basic rhythms, filters, instruments, and styles become easily apparent just by exploring. Garageband is more advanced, but Animal Band 3D, Morton Subotnick’s Pitch Painter, and Musical Me are great for young kids.
  • Lay the groundwork for music lessons. Most teachers won’t take private students until around the age of five or six, but you can start them on the path to playing by banging on pots and pans, using a toy keyboard, or implementing other homemade options. Pay attention to which instruments and sounds they like– it’s all about finding a vibration that resonates (pray for something other than drums!). For more on looking for the right teacher, check out this great blog that goes into more depth: http://blog.musicteachershelper.com/when-is-my-child-ready-for-lessons/.

As promised, some band and singers that kids really love: David Bowie, Raymond Scott, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Mel Torme, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Eartha Kitt, and Bobby McFerrin. Another great source is Pandora, where you can enter “kids,” and great stations in all styles will pop up.

Music is a human enterprise and that’s why it fills kids with excitement to hear it, play it, dance to it, and even talk about it. This wellspring of happiness is something we can provide effortlessly for our kids. Whether we are singing Jimmy Crack Corn in the car or seated in a quiet auditorium eagerly waiting for the show to begin, music is infectious and, just like language, when we offer it to them, we provide a gateway to interacting with the world.

 

References:

  1. http://www.parents.com/kids/development/intellectual/benefits-of-music-lessons/
  2. http://www.funderstanding.com/brain/brain-anatomy/an-emotional-connection-the-cerebral-cortex-and-the-limbic-system/

About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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