When a child marches around the room to music and plays a drum, the brain is stimulated in many ways:
- Coordination is needed to walk in time to the beat and to play the drum with hands while coordinating the feet.
- Sometimes the beat of the drum may be at half the speed that the feet are moving at. This introduces the mathematical concept of division into the brain.
- Hand-eye coordination is needed as the hand comes in contact with the drum. This develops eye strength: the eye focuses on different objects and people at different distances as the child moves around the room. The child also uses peripheral vision as they move around the room.
- Body awareness and spatial awareness is needed to know how much space the child takes up in a room, and how they can navigate around it.
- Ears are used to help tune the voice to match the song.
- Language capabilities are developed through learning the words of the song, with the aid of the rhyme and rhythm.
- Learning the repetitive sequence of words in a song develops memory.
- By sharing a space and giving way to others, children develop social skills.
Do not worry if you are not particularly musical yourself. It is more important that you jump in and have some fun with your child, and preschool kids can’t even tell if you are singing in tune or not anyway!
So where do you start? There is a lot that you can do at home to foster an environment filled with music, and the benefits your child will gain are substantial:
- Make up songs based on simple melodies you know. Pick a song you know with a simple melody like “I’m the king of the castle” but change the lyrics to describe the activity you are doing with your child.
- Play music with a strong beat but no lyrics (adult lyrics are often distracting for young children). Move in time with the music: stamp, jump, crawl, change direction when the music changes or when a different verse starts; pat the beat on different body parts including those less known to the child like the neck, shin, heel, or wrist.
- Move slowly with gentle, slow movements. Rock and swing small children (supporting their neck at all times) and even bigger kids love to swing. Hold them around the torso and swing them between your legs. (You won’t need to go to the gym that day!).
- Older children can use scarves or pieces of colourful fabric (or even a tea towel) to swing and dance with. Encourage them to use the space behind, beside and above them to learn about space and positional language. This movement, and the moving of objects is great for increasing eye strength beyond what a screen can offer, and screens tend to take up a lot of a child’s day.
- Look for ‘found’ sounds in your home. Find things that you can bang that aren’t going to break. The pot cupboard is a good start. Use plastic boxes, cardboard boxes, and wooden or plastic spoons as beaters. Find things with ridges that you can scrape: tubing, cake racks, toast racks, plastic meat trays (e.g. Tupperware), and hand-held containers that you can put objects with different sounds and colours in (e.g. buttons, paper clips, small stones). Make absolutely sure the lids are childproof or securely taped closed!
- When you go outside, look for objects that make sounds: for example crunchy autumn leaves, rocks, sticks, and shells from the beach, and play them in different ways.
- Play games with sound.
- Sing ‘do do do’ through an empty toilet roll or something similar.
- Say ‘hello’ in different ways into a small bucket or large cup.
- Hide sounds in a box then play them and ask kids to identify them by their sound (paper, car keys, water bottle, cellophane, cutlery, opening a banana).
- Make a drum kit from different sized cardboard boxes then put on some music and jam on the ‘drums’ using wooden spoons.
- Try to identify who is coming home by their footsteps.
Director, Kids Music Company www.kidsmusic.co.nz
Creating music for children for 26 years