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“Where did that song come from?!”

11 Sep

STORY FROM A MOM

question mark, exclamation pointIt’s been about a year since we played with “Here is the Beehive” in music class, but one three-year-old surprised her mom this summer and started chanting it in the backseat of the car. “Out of the blue, she started doing this,” her mom wrote to me in an email. Even though this preschooler’s parents do a lot of singing with their daughter, they’ve not chanted about those bees very much since last Fall; she simply unearthed it from her brain’s music archives all on her own. The music that children absorb early in life becomes a sort of “developmental playlist” that they can access when they’re ready — they spontaneously pull out songs from this list and sing/play with them to practice skills they’ve already mastered and explore new concepts that their developing brains are now ready to learn.

I see this in my own children, too. In my classes this Fall, as we do the Flute collection, we’ll be singing “Shake Those ‘Simmons Down.” That happens to be one song that my now-13-year-old has spontaneously sung over the years, often wondering out loud, “Where did that song come from?” Way back when he was a one-year-old, we did the Flute collection in our first semester of Music Together, so “Shake Those ‘Simmons…” was a song we listened to and sang over and over again. As a result, I like to think that he has a special section of his brain dedicated solely to this song (when he was about 7, he changed the words a bit and all of a sudden “Shake Those ‘Simmons…” became a gospel anthem).

You can help your child build her own playlist by exposing her to as much music as possible early in life — and while recorded music is lovely, it’s the live music that you make that will have the most impact (so go ahead and turn on your iPod…just sing along out loud!). One day, your child will pop out with a song seemingly from nowhere, and you’ll know that it’s been tucked away, waiting for that moment for your child to start making it her own.

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“Me, me, me, me, little star…”

15 Apr

blog_me-starSTORY FROM A MOM

This weekend I co-led a workshop on how children’s brains are wired to make music and how families can use music to deepen the bonds with their children. After the workshop, a mom pulled me aside to share this story: Her 3-1/2-year-old daughter just recently made up a singing game using “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” in which the daughter sings the first phrase on the syllable “me” (“Me, me, me, me, me, me, meeee”), then points at the mom, commanding her to sing the second phrase onĀ another syllable (say, “La, la, la, la, la, la, laaaaa”), then the turn comes back to the daughter, who chooses a third syllable, and so on to the end of the song. The mom told me that they’ve been singing together as a family since her daughter was born, making up words to songs, inventing up goofy songs about diaper changing and dinner-making and the like. Given all the family music-making, it makes sense that this little girl comes up with her own ways of singing songs and, now that she’s getting older, her own song games. The mom was so happy to learn that she was instinctively doing “the right thing” musically with her daughter (and to hear me use the very grown-up word, “improvisation” to describe her child’s creative music-making–it’s a word that freaks out adults, but children do it all the time!).

TRY THIS AT HOME

Take any song that you know well (“Twinkle, Twinkle,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Happy Birthday”), drop the usual words, and put in your own syllables. Maybe you’ll sing “me” and “you,” or “yes” and “no,” or “hi” and “bye,” or just “la-la” or “dee-dee.” Oh sure, you’ll be modeling musical “improvisation,” but you’ll also be joining in your child’s way of learning by simply playing around with the music. One day, like the mom in this story, you’ll find your child taking the lead in her own music game, and you can play along knowing you’ve laid the groundwork for her independent music-making.

Goofy, Messy Music

4 Oct

I don’t think there’s any goofier song in Music Together than “A Ram Sam Sam.” We’re singing goofy “words.” We’re making goofy hand motions. We’re “messing up” all over the place. And that’s just why this song is such a perfect teaching tool. We have way too many opportunities for our children to see and hear people making flawless music (much of the time with the help of machinery and computers to remove any flaws that make it out of the rehearsal studio). But that’s not the kind of music our children make–they make messy music that most of the time doesn’t even look to adults like music at all. So, imagine how thrilling it is for our children to see us making musical messes, too!

TRY THIS AT HOME

The next time you’re singing with your child, make as much of a musical mess as you can stand. (Hey, it’s a lot less work than making a mess in the kitchen, or with finger paints.) Turn on the radio and dance like a loon around the house, flailing your arms and waggling your tongue. Sing a song using a fake opera voice or an imitation cowboy twang. Make up wacky words to a song (“Sprinkle, sprinkle, little shoe; Sprinkly, jinkly, minkly, moo”). Pick up a ukulele and play it backwards, with the strings to your belly. Your child might laugh, might stare at you in disbelief, or might correct you, but the message that they’re getting loud and clear is that it’s OK to play around with music. And, since that’s exactly how children learn–through play–you’re communicating that their way of learning is A-OK.

Let me know what happens when you make your musical mess!