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Build Life Skills With Music

By Caron Goode

Love, respect and appreciation for music are easy to share with our children and build life skills at the same time. During the first years of our child’s life, musical skills build self-esteem and enhance expression. Musical rhythms spur motor development. Learning melodies and words stimulates listening capacity and help children develop receptive language.

Specific areas of child development and learning are positively affected by exposure to and training in music. Preschoolers given piano and voice lessons, for example, have been found to improve dramatically in their ability to put together picture puzzles of animals. Playing the piano at the preschool age influences development of the cortex, the part of the brain used for thinking, talking, seeing, hearing and creating.* Music training contributes to the ability to learn or enhance mathematics skills.

Music clearly is a resource for living, growing and learning and can be an integral part of our children’s growing experiences.

Music is controlled movement of sound, in time.* Music is three basic components: sound + rhythm + melody = music.

Exploring sound
To help children understand music, it is helpful to look at each component separately. First there is sound, one that we make or one from another source. A few examples of sound are a bird chirping, a teakettle whistling and a child banging on a pot with a spoon. If music were compared to a painting, sound would be the background color.

In our bodies, sound corresponds with our central nervous system. A pleasant sound opens and expands us. It can energize or calm us. A shrieking sound puts our nerves on edge. Like the background in a painting, sound is the first step in creating music.

Here are some ways to explore sound with our children.
• Have your children listen to the sounds around them. How many different sounds can they find in the kitchen or backyard?

• Encourage children to be creative making sounds. Have them use their voices or household objects to make sound. Allow them to make pretty, irritating or silly sounds. They are all music if they reflect creative exploration or honest feelings.

The purpose for creating sound is not necessarily to make “beautiful music” but to foster self-expression and open up our children’s ears to the world around them.

Relishing rhythm
The second component of music is rhythm. Rhythm defines and organizes the sound through a beat. For example, is the whistling of the teakettle long and steady or short and choppy? Is the child’s banging on the pot fast and upbeat or smooth and slow?

In a painting, the rhythm would be the overall movement or flow of the composition. When you first look at the painting, where do your eyes go? Is the painting easy to look at, or is it busy and annoying? This is its rhythm.

In our bodies, rhythm corresponds to our own internal body rhythm — our pulse and breath. If the musical beat is quick and steady, our heartbeat and body movements will mirror it. If we are tired, listening to African drumming can kick our body back into gear. On the other hand, if a 2-year-old is running around out of control, slow rhythmic music like Bach or Vivaldi restores inner calm and slows most children down. Explore and add rhythm to the sounds that children make.

• Have your children play with different beats: fast, slow, steady and erratic.

• Have them practice listening to the different rhythms around them, like the water dripping from the faucet or the ticking of a clock.

• Ask them if they can feel the vibration of a musical beat in their bodies, and if so, where? How do the different rhythms feel in their body? How do their feet want to move with the different beats?

• Try hand clapping to the rhythm of a poem and foot tapping to a favorite piece of music. These activities are every child’s favorite free entertainment.

Making melody
Finally there is melody. Melody corresponds to our emotions. It gives sound and rhythm its feeling and sensual quality. It is the part of music that expresses the hills and valleys of an individual’s experience. It goes straight to our heart and feeling center. Melody can uplift our spirit, calm us during times of stress, or move us to tears.

Returning to the painting metaphor, melody would be the overall feeling that the painting evokes as we look at it. Does the painting draw us in and create a feeling of peace, excitement, distress or discomfort? Introducing melody to the earlier sounds and rhythms will help children learn self-expression.

• Have them hum a tune or create a melody, adding emotion to sound.

• Experiment expressing sounds that are emotional: happy, sad, funny, etc.

Melody turns a sound into a personal and unique statement. By playing with sound, rhythm and melody, our children discover a new vocabulary and tool to use for expression when words are hard to find.

We can use creativity and imagination to choose different styles of music by which our children can express their feelings, relax, stimulate their minds or allow their creative juices to flow. A variety of selections, rhythms, tones and melodies allows children to develop their own musical tastes and sparks their natural curiosity to explore the world of music on their own.

© Caron Goode

NFO Attachment Parenting Editor Caron Goode, Ed.D., has written six books on child development, two monographs and co-authored two additional books. Her articles have appeared in more than 200 national newspapers and more than two dozen websites. She and her husband, Tom Goode, ND, direct Inspired Parenting and Inspired Living International in Tucson, Arizona, offering offer parent education workshops, Full Wave Breathing™ and Mindbody Talk™ wellness workshops.

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