When a baby cries, most of us will immediately begin to rhythmically pat or rock or sing a favourite nursery rhyme or lullaby. Almost instinctively we turn to rhythm and melody to instil comfort.
As the baby grows into an older child, we gradually stop using music so freely. Obviously, they might be too big to be rocked and nursery rhymes aren’t so fun anymore! But we can still use music to lift spirits, calm anxiety and create stronger family bonds, with children and people of all ages.
Here are a few ideas –
Try playing all sorts of different music at home
Pop, folk, classical, jazz, showtunes… The more you expose your child to different music, the more opportunities they have to find something they connect with. And try lots of different times (not just in the car) – what about when you’re cooking dinner or at bath time? And it doesn’t have to be loud!
When favourite relatives and friends are visiting or when you’re on a relaxing holiday. Music can create strong memories and positive associations. Think about how a song can take you back to a specific moment in time.
Play music at bedtime and wake up time.
Music is so accessible now. Have a browse in Spotify or Apple Music for relaxing music or download an App for bedtime. My five-year-old loves ABC Kids Listen – lullabies. You could also try playing music for wake up time – nothing too loud and fast but something to ease your child gently into the day. Much nicer than an alarm clock!
It might feel a bit strange to bust a move in your living room but the more you do it, the easier it becomes. And your kids will love it… It’s hard to be grumpy when you’re attempting the moonwalk!
If your singing annoys your child (I’ve experienced this), try humming gently to yourself – it’s a great way to calm your nervous system at those challenging moments. Otherwise…sing your heart out! A lot of young children are natural singers – encourage this and join them. Singing is also a great learning tool – easy example is the ABC! Try using a melody to teach your child to remember your phone number or to learn spelling words.
Transitions and Timers!
Does your child struggle with transitioning from playing to dinner time. Maybe try playing a song or piece of music that signals dinner time – saves you repeating their name 5 times to come to the table. It might not work the first few times but it’s worth a try! You could also use a song as a fun timer – all the toys have to be picked up before the song ends.
Make your own music.
Whether you have a toddler who likes banging on pots and pans or an older child who is learning an instrument – try to not to focus on perfection or performance. If you have a keyboard, explore it with your child. Find different melodies or rhythms you can create together. Learning to read music is a fantastic skill but don’t forget to have fun with an instrument. Often kids quit instrument lessons because of the pressure to “get it right”. Let them explore and experiment.
Whatever you do, just try making it musical… and enjoy all the benefits!