Are you feeling stumped or overwhelmed with creative play ideas, or just ways to manage children constantly demanding attention in your home?
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic we are currently in lockdown; living with only our immediate family and unable to socialise or see other people outside. It has fast become the most challenging time of our lives with many parents trying to juggle work alongside either a baby or pre-schooler in the house, or supervising remote learning alongside. Or a combination of these challenges! It has also, for many of us provided us with a wonderful opportunity to spend extra, unpressured time together, enjoying each other’s company and the simple pleasures.
However you feel about the situation we can help with these ten easy steps.
Whichever of these camps you fall into (motivated or exhausted) this blog will provide you with some straightforward ideas and ammunition to engage in music making (and listening) with your children of any age. Read on to find out 10 ways that Music can not only keep them busy and engaged for a while, but is educational, beneficial for their emotional worlds and good for you too!
- Music from a young age can help us be more understanding of others (great for siblings constantly in each other’s space)
Yes music is great for quick entertainment and distraction for little ones, and who doesn’t love banging a tambourine around? But there are many more benefits to your little one and their developing brain by engaging in music from this young age. When we are engaged in playful music making from early years onwards we develop an understanding of empathy (noticing how others’ are feeling) and of being with others in a mutual activity. This study from the University of Cambridge suggests that interacting with others through music makes us more emotionally attuned to other people, even beyond the musical setting. Hearing a range of music genres (eg rock ‘n’ roll, drumming circles, gospel choir, country, acoustic and so on) can promote an awareness of equality amongst people, an understanding of diversity in cultures and positive acceptance of these.
- Making Music has Educational Benefits
Listening to genres outside of your norm will encourage little ones listening skills develop; specifically their ability to distinguish between certain sounds. This is because babies are designed to listen out for familiar sounds in their environment. By introducing them to unfamiliar sounds their hearing skills are broadened. Any seasoned parent or teacher will tell you enhanced listening skills can only be a good thing!
Making music is also great for developing spontaneous play in little ones. Allowing them to have little or no structure and just to be free in the sounds they are producing (whether or not it sounds like actual music) is great for enhancing their play skills. Finding new ways of making sounds, on their “instruments” or bodies can support their developing problem solving skills and offer them options for new ways of doing things.
- No Musical Equipment Required!
You don’t need musical instruments! Pots & pans, wooden spoons, mixing bowls and your bodies make great instruments and are free!!! Check out our youtube / instagram for some easy “how to” to make your own homemade musical instruments . Finding alternative uses for everyday items is fun, creative and can be such an exciting game for little ones: seeing something ordinary; like a saucepan, suddenly become something fun to play with is great for their developing brains! Of course if you do have a piano in the house or an old instrument lying around by all means get it out and play it! Let your baby or children explore it under your supervision for even greater benefits.(see point 8)
- Deepen your Attachment with your children.
Although for you it could feel like another task, it doesn’t take long to grab some pots and spoons and start. Or play along to songs on your phone / radio. Making music together enhances the secure bond between you and your children which is vital for their ongoing development and confidence in the world. Playing together at any age is great for children: school aged children still need to play and especially during times of crisis, play can be their way of understanding what’s going on and how they feel about it all. Doing it together might give you a glance into their world or an understanding of their current thoughts or concerns.
- Listening to Music can be an emotional release.
Putting some music on to listen to can lift your spirits, or can allow you that emotional release you’ve been holding onto. Listening to a piece of music we love can transport us to a different place. Perhaps it’s a memory of a more fun time; a song from your wedding, the piece that always gets you up dancing with your friends, or just a song to bring calm and a moment of peace. Maybe there’s a piece of music that always makes you cry. Put it on and let those tears flow. This is such a strange and emotionally exhausting time. Allow yourself a physical release. As music gets through to the primitive parts of our brain we don’t need words to understand the feeling conveyed by music, and it is able to take us in a sudden and transformative way back to that important moment. Try listening to some music you loved as a teenager, or whilst at university. (I experienced this so strongly recently when a friend played The Snow Patrol “Set Fire to the Third Bar” Feat Martha Wainwright. This was a massive song for me whilst studying music and it transported me right back to those hazy uni days.)
- Sing along for added benefits!
Whether or not you like the sound of your own voice singing releases oxytocin and endorphins, which make us feel happy and relaxed. Singing has been proven to reduce depression and singing with others (plenty of online choirs these days) has even great improvement rates. Our babies know their mum’s voice in the third trimester and it brings them comfort once born. So they LOVE the sound of your voice, even if you don’t (and despite what the 3 year old might say!)
- It’s fun and doesn’t involve ANY prep!!
Just ask Alexa (or any other streaming device) to play your favourite song (or ask the children to choose): once you’ve started with one it’s easy to think of others you love; or put on a playlist or radio station (or an old favourite album if you can find a CD player anywhere in the house). For a while you can forget all the stressors of being stuck at home during lockdown and juggling different roles: music is an escape for us all: let yourself go to another “place” for a few minutes and enjoy the feeling of lightness.
- Music Promotes Speech and Literacy Skills
When our children engage in music making they aren’t just having fun and making noise. They’re developing their understanding of language, communication and even literacy skills. Making music promotes speech and understanding of speech patterns and reading abilities, this is because music and speech share common characteristics — pitch, timing and timbre — and that the brain relies on the same neural pathways to process both. I love this amazing fact: if a child knows eight nursery rhymes by their fourth birthday they are more likely to be in the top section of reading skills by Year 2 at school.
- When we listen to music we move!
Movement is so important during lockdown. Keeping our bodies active and strong is vital if we are going to manage this strange situation. Dance around your kitchen. Jump and move with your children: modelling to them promotes healthy body awareness and a strong sense of self. If they see you having fun they’re more likely to join in with you. Move with your baby: rock them and lift them up and down to the beat. Watch their cues as being separated from you in this way might be overwhelming, but when they can manage it they’ll have lots of fun flying around the room to music.
- If all else fails Music is fun.
It has great educational benefits for your little ones, can be done with anyone at any age and it’s a great and easy activity to pass some time while exhausting all possible options!
Music is really a great fix for quick entertainment, easy to do together and a true emotional outlet for you all.