Archive for August, 2012

A Tune For Every Moment

I was shopping for a mattress pad at Target, exciting right? As I was standing there in the aisle, debating cotton, alternative down, water proof; I heard a little child sitting in her mom’s cart with some toy playing music keeping her occupied. The mom was doing her shopping and as she perused the aisle she clapped along with the beat of the music. When the music would stop, she continued to clap the beat. The child was so engaged and watched her mom as she played and danced around the Target aisle having fun and singing to her daughter while getting her shopping done. I wanted to go up to her and say, “way to go, keep making that music!” What a great example for all of us. Music can be a great tool, it can help you through a tough transition, it can put a child at ease, it can create bonding moments and foster emotional intelligence, it can make time together fun and engaging, it can encourage imagination, it can help with language development. I could go on. Just like the mom in Target, engaging her daughter musically, as she sat in the cart, we too can use music as a tool.

At Heartsong, we are arming you with a musical arsenal.  We want to give you the tools and the knowledge to create a rich musical environment at home, in the car, at Grandma’s, and even at Target. The average American family knows 3-5 songs to sing to their child. The ABC’s, Twinkle Twinkle, and Baa Baa Black Sheep all have the same melody, so that doesn’t leave us with much. In every class I ask my families to share musical experiences from the previous week. So many times I have heard, “whenever she gets upset in the car, all I have to do is turn on the CD and she calms down.” I also hear, “when we were on vacation, we were having a melt down, and I sang to him in the middle of the airport and it was the only thing that worked!” These moments show us how helpful it can be to have a song in your back pocket.

Even in class we will use our songs to transition from one song to the next, we sing Bye bye, or Bum bum as we put our sticks back into the basket. The children have grown accustomed to this ritual in class and know it means its time to put our instruments away. Sometimes we even sing a song about putting the play-along instruments back in the basket, substituting “clean up lyrics” to a song we already know. These methods can easily be used at home, not only to help make transitions smoother, but also as a great way to insert music as a part of your daily routine.

Every class we sing a lullaby, we quiet things down for a minute or two and we let the children hear our voices. So much bonding happens during a lullaby. In class we get a small peek sometimes into the special connection between parent and child. We want your child to hear your voice, even if they are across the room, your voice is your child’s most favorite voice. So, at home, when you are reading bedtime stories, add a song to the end of that ritual. It is an incredible gift to give that shares love and affection through music. Your voice can calm them and soothe them to sleep.

Music is FUN! Children are born musical, it is our job as grown-ups to support them in their musical growth. We can show them that we love music, and we can actively engage and make music fun! It is not only musical competence that we pass to them as we do our job as musical models, it is also the disposition towards music that we pass on. If your child doesn’t want to dance with you, don’t stop dancing, dance for them! Have a good time with music, if you hear your favorite song on the radio, sing out! It is not about what they do, it is about what YOU do. Their musical development is a complex process that takes years to complete. Why not give them every opportunity to share in a love for music that could last a lifetime? Don’t be afraid; sing, dance, make music fun!

We can give countless opportunities for imagination using music. If you are headed to the grocery store, you can sing the “Hello Song” to all the fruits and veggies you see in the produce department. You can make substitutions of words to almost any song or chant to include what you are doing that day. Children love to have their ideas validated: accept and include the dinosaur in the vegetable song, it doesn’t have to rhyme or even make sense. There are no rules, get creative!

Spontaneous musical moments can be easy, they can help you on a daily basis, and they can create a bond between you and your child. Use music to your advantage! Music can make a trip to Target more than just an errand. Keep a song in your back pocket, for a rainy day, or a long line at the grocery store. You never know when you might need it.

Sabine Heath
Certification Level I, Music Together Teacher

How Silence Makes Us Musical

In a Music Together classroom – Anywhere, USA

Hello everybody, we’re so glad to see….
(silence…)
(……………..)
(Sixth month old vocalizes) eeeeeehhh…
(Two year old)  You!
(Grown-ups join in) Youuuuuuu!

If you’ve been in a music together class, you have probably experienced a scenario like this – the grown-ups leave space in a song and the children fill it in!

So many exciting things can happen when there is silence in the classroom and in our musical play. Whether it’s in between songs or within the song itself, silence is very important in facilitating your child’s musical absorption, audiation, and participation in class.

Purposeful Silence

When we pause for silence during songs, we are really allowing our children to take in and process what they’ve just experienced. Research has taught us that babies need three full seconds before they can process what they’ve heard and then even more to respond!  So to meet the musical needs of babies, we must make silence a part of their musical experience. This allows their brains to catch up – ours, too!

We also know how important contrast is to children’s learning. We often play with fast next to slow, loud next to soft, thereby giving greater meaning to both concepts. Likewise, we play with silence and music. In these instances, whether it is with singing, chanting, or instrument play, the music becomes more meaningful and the silence becomes filled with energy and anticipation!

                   Jack in the box, resting so still

                  Will you come out? 

                  (wait for it, wait for it……………….)

                  YES!  I will!

The purposeful silence within songs and chants also allows us to see if our children are able to audiate what comes next. Have we repeated the song/chant enough?  Can they hear the song in their head without us singing it? If the answer is yes, then we may hear a child sing out. If it’s a song like Trot Old Joe, a child may simply start pushing back on their grown-up because they know what to expect next –  a roll back on “Whoa!”. As teachers, we also like to leave space after we sing a tonal pattern and before you sing back. This space allows the children to receive the pattern and try to sing it themselves. These musical moments and expressions need purposeful silence to come out!

Silence is golden…

You have probably heard us say many times in class that your voice is your child’s favorite voice in the whole world, but did you also know that your child is attuned to your voice above all? This means that whether you are singing in class or talking to a neighbor in class, your voice is what your child is noticing most. At this young age, your child lacks the auditory filter to “tune you out” so we want to keep the talking to a minimum and the singing at a maximum!

There are golden opportunities for silence in every class when we are transitioning from one song to the next. When we are silent in between songs, we can help keep our children’s musical minds active. Even though the song activity is over for us grown-ups, it is far from done in your child’s mind. Your child is still absorbing the song and maybe audiating or “thinking” the song even after we’ve sung the last note. This is the time that we often hear children sing out! Giving your child a silent space to allow processing and self-expression is such a gift. So if you need to relay something to your child in class, try singing it to them! During our precious time together we want our children’s musical minds active and absorbing the whole time.

When you play with your child musically and add purposeful silences, you are supporting their musical development by giving them time to absorb, audiate and express themselves. Here are some ideas for at home and at play:

  • Sing a song that is familiar to them, maybe one from class. When you get to the end of a phrase or a verse, leave off the last word and see what happens! Your child may sing the ending or if they don’t, you can do it for them. You can try this with a chant, too!
  • Similar to the activity above, sing a song and this time leave out repetitive phrases from a song.

Flies in the buttermilk, shoo, fly, shoo

Flies in the buttermilk, (audiate)

Flies in the buttermilk (audiate)

Skip to my Lou, my darling.

See what happens!

  • Again, sing a song that is familiar to your child and make unexpected pauses or freezes in the song. Children love starts and stops in music as it provides contrasting experiences while filling the song with excitement and anticipation!

Remember when playing with your child that it is not about results, it’s about having fun and connecting musically. So sing, dance, and have fun!

Till we make music together again….

Michelle Jamail
Certification Level II, Music Together Teacher


The Joy of Family Music

Heartsong Music teaches Music Together®, the internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through grade two and the adults who love them.

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