“Pacifier Participation” — There’s Nothing Passive About It

4 May

This morning, a mom apologized for her daughter’s non-stop pacifier-sucking during class last week. “I hid it from her today,” she said. Thank goodness this mom told me what was going on — it gave me the chance to let her know that it’s 100% okay to suck on a pacifier (or fingers, or a thumb) all the way through music class. 

Since pacifiers are meant to induce a peaceful, calm state, we tend to think of children with sucking them as passive, disengaged, and silenced. Musically, however, pacifiers can be an active part of the child’s experience. Sucking stimulates the mouth and the tongue, which are integral parts of our music-making system. I’ll frequently see children with pacifiers sucking rhythmically during class, either on the beat of the song/chant we’re doing, or to her/his own personal tempo. (It’s fun to see the brightly colored plastic bounce up and down to the beat!) It’s also common to hear a child with a pacifier (or sucking a thumb) humming or toning pitches we’re singing in class.  In fact, I’ve seen children stop singing or expressing rhythm when the pacifier comes out of the mouth.

So, go ahead and let the binky/passy/thumb/finger-sucking rage on in music class. After our conversation this morning, the mom from class breathed a sigh of relief, relaxing into the knowing that her child’s “pacifier participation” is anything but passive.

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