Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Child's Inner Voice: Three Easy Ways to Encourage Artistic Musical Expression

Research shows that children who are actively involved in music:
*Play better with others
*Have higher self-esteem
*Are better able to control their bodies
*Are better able to focus
*Do better in reading and math when they start school

Kids who grow up singing songs, listening to music, and moving to the beat are immersed in what experts call "a rich sensory environment." Researchers believe this exposure forges more neural connections (pathways between the cells in their brains.) These are three easy ways to encourage your kidlet's artistic musical expression:

1. Give children the opportunity to listen to all different sorts of music (not just the "kids stuff.") Classical, country, big band, classic rock, ska, folk, reggae, latin, gospel, the blues... if given the exposure, children will often form their own astonishingly specific and unique preferences early on. As long as the music isn't over-stimulating, and as long as it's language and topic-appropriate, "grown up" music can be a wonderful addition to the Yo Gabba Gabba and Raffi collection.

2. Have simple instruments on hand for children to casually experiment with (like maracas, bells, tambourines, and rhythm sticks.) Let children feel and manipulate the tools on their own, allowing them to create sounds with out any specific instruction.

3. Play Copy Cat Echo Beats. Drum out an easy three-sound pattern on your lap, (or by clapping your hands, clacking your tongue, or using a simple instrument), and ask your children to copy it.

Play Copy Cat Dancing by listening to music and dancing. Have children imitate your dance moves. Vary the tempo and rhythms. To show descending and ascending pitches, you can use scarves (scarves go up when going up the scale, they go down when lowering; scarves move fast when the music speeds up, they move slowly when it slows down.)

HBO Family has a wonderful special called The Music in Me which is reairing this month. It's great for kids and parents to watch together, and encourages children to follow their inner voice. In the stories told in the documentary, that means music, but the message can easily be applied to whatever resonates with your own child, be it painting, science, sports, or storytelling. Kids can do incredible things! Here's two excerpts:

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