Excerpted from Child of Wonder
There is a whoosh-whoosh rhythm in the womb, a mother's heartbeat in perfect time: nature's drum. With the sense of touch, this internal drumming can be felt at just a few weeks gestation. Then, at ten weeks, hearing develops and the ssh! of Mama's blood reaches the ears. This, our first music, begins before we even open our eyes.
Perhaps related to this perfect rhythm as such a potent and primitive force in our lives, listening to and making music have been classifies as brilliant neurological exercises. The brain has different areas which are activated with various aspects of thinking and doing. It is much too simplistic to divide those functions because the brain is interconnected and cooperative. The more we do to stimulate all parts of the brain, the more we can encourage verbal memory, spatial reasoning, and cognitive processing. Brain research concludes that there is a window of opportunity when neurons can be connected and the brain can develop the ability to learn new languages, hear tones, think spatially, and internalize distinct strategies to solve problems. With that in mind, it is important to provide substantial opportunities for hearing and making music early in a child's life. Luckily, those opportunities are available in abundance.
When choosing and looking for music opportunities for children, find the balance between experiencing models of naturally occurring music (the rain tip-tapping on the roof, rushing rivers, and the rustling of the trees) and synthesized music. Expose them to jazz, blues, folk, world music, reggae, opera, and other types of music. Contact with many different types of creative expression through music gives a child a larger platform from which to jump into their own expression. Let yourself sing and dance around the house, in the car, or on a walk. Joyful, spontaneous breakout in song is a beautiful model! Point out everyday music and what sounds are to be heard by listening to rain, vehicle sounds, trees rustling, chipmunks chattering, construction sites banging, the hum of the air conditioner, and by playing listening games.
Favorite Picture Books for Music Modeling
Africa Calling, Nighttime Falling by Daniel Alderman
Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Racksha
I Live in Music by Ntozake Shange
The Jazz Fly by Matthew Gollub and Karen Hank
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss
Music is a wonderful way to connect us with each other, our needs, our desires, and our expressions. As you begin to think about how you can further incorporate the listening and making of music into your daily life, take the opportunity to get in tune with each other. Find awareness in how music makes you feel and how and when you already use it in your daily life. What ways does your child use music already? What kind of music does he enjoy? How does his body react when certain types of music come on the radio? Does he enjoy live music? Does he have opportunities to make music spontaneously? How? Do we have opportunities to make music together? From there, you will have further understanding of how you already use music. As you then evaluate how to best to share future experiences with your child, continue to look at how you can make music together, in new ways, throughout your day. Explore with patterns you hear and make, the songs you sing, and all types of instruments.
Learning to recognize patterns is a life skill and the brain is designed to perceive and generate patterns. Allow children opportunities to not only hear, but also feel and make their own rhythm patterns. Join in the music. Drum, use shakers, or clap out the rhythm. Make rhythmic motions with your feet, head, and hands. If you desire, consider also adding a metronome (a device which keeps a steady beat or tempo), which have been found to also help focus children with attention difficulties.
When exposed to language and rhythms of all kinds, children are our most intuitive poets. Their spontaneous ability to play on words, join them together, and ability to let go of conventions allows them a unique freedom when it comes to song writing.
Establishing routines with music is a key way to keep it flourishing. And making up your own songs are a great way to establish routines: use them to say hello and goodbye, or incorporate a clean up or time to leave song. When you are telling stories, add songs for your characters to sing. Songs can be used to excite, stimulate, teach, or soothe, so incorporate them during all types of activity. Innovate on favorite songs by changing the words to fit what you are doing. In no time, you will likely overhear your young ones lulling their stuffed mouse to a dreamy slumber with her own lullaby.
Musical accompaniment to stories is a wonderful outlet for creative expression. Use homemade or professional musical instruments to accompany or tell your favorite family stories. What soundtrack can you create to help convey the meaning in the story? Use high and low sounds to tell stories like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. What would the wild rumpus sound like? Can you find an instrument that sounds like how the sun feels today?
As you expand your use of music as a tool for creative development, you may be inclined to record some of the musical treasures that emerge. As well you should. It is truly fascinating to hear your own voice played back at you, especially in the case of children who likely have not had the opportunity to hear themselves often. Children can record themselves with a simple cassette player, but if you have the capability, record the music into your computer. There, you can add it to videos, mix it together to make medleys, and make your own music CD's. Once you have a nice selection, throw a dance party with your child as the DJ.
Our lives begin with the natural music of the beating of our mother's hearts. The beautiful challenge is to keep listening. Let nature's perfect drum be your musical guide.
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