At Home and At School, ‘Everyone Can Make Music!’

In a typical school year, St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s is alive with music.  The sounds of Chapel hymns, Brass Band horns, and performances by the choruses and instrumental ensemble. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, though most of the school day takes place in person, the school’s music programs have gone online and into families’ homes. Whether students are learning at school or at home, it is the music department’s mission to instill a love of music and to encourage children to joyfully make music. There are ways for parents to encourage children to continue having fun with music beyond their virtual classroom time!

Incorporating music into your child’s life is easy and extremely beneficial to healthy child development. Music can positively influence your child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social growth in many ways. The number one predictor of a child developing musical skills in childhood and beyond is how much they were exposed to music as a baby and toddler.

You don’t have to be a musician to give your child everything he or she needs to experience the benefits music has to offer.  “It’s not about ‘being talented’ or ‘I can or cannot sing!’” says Jude Olney, Choral Director and Lower School Music Teacher. “Everyone can make music!”

Mr. Olney and Beth Soleimany, who teaches early childhood music and also leads the instrumental ensemble for grades 7-8, have gathered a host of tips to encourage children’s love of music:

PLAY MUSIC AT HOME

Start with music that you as a parent enjoy. Sharing your own passion will be the conduit for children and hook them into loving music. Having music on in the background while working or playing is a really good place to begin. Try exposing children to different kinds of music, but also take their lead. If they are showing you that they can’t stand Mozart, that’s OK! Go with what they enjoy.

MAKE MUSIC A PART OF YOUR CHILD’S PLAY

Put music on and leave out instruments, pots and pans, shakers (coffee cans work well), dress-up clothes, a marker or wooden spoon for a conducting baton, mike, horn, or bow, and stuffed animals or dolls to play the role of bandmates or of an audience. Let your child engage in pretend musical play for as much or as little as they like.

SING!

Many children enjoy singing as part of a ritual, like a clean-up song or a lullaby before bed. If you attend worship services online, sing along. Sing when out on a walk together or on car trips. You can even make it funny: sing in silly voices, or play air guitar. There are many great musical storybooks, too. The more you sing for and with your child, the easier it will be for them to learn to sing and most importantly, to enjoy doing so.

DANCE PARTY!

Movement gets our blood flowing, our breath rolling, and it’s at the core of making music. Dance to what you both like, and don’t be afraid to try different kinds of music. Some children are sensitive to loud sounds and big movements. In this case, they may prefer moving their body to quieter songs. You can even make it silly! Dance to lots of different kinds of music: salsa, hip-hop, ballet, etc. You can also incorporate movement with music by pretending to be animals, such as stomping like elephants for loud and low sounds, and scurrying like mice for high, quiet sounds.

MUSIC IS EVERYWHERE

Point out the music in everything. It’s everywhere in the world around us. Watching Star Wars? The music MAKES the films—help your child identify everything they hear! Walking in the park? Those birds are making music! That jackhammer in the distance sounds very rhythmic today. There’s a cool saxophone player over there! Doing dishes or vacuuming? There can be a rhythm and melody to the sounds you make!

KEEP THE BEAT

When listening to music, keep the beat in your body and help your child to keep the beat. Bounce them on your lap to the beat of a song or lightly tap out the beat on your child’s back. Play hand games like “Pat-A-Cake” or “Miss Mary Mack”. If your child is old enough, you can do jump rope games or double dutch.

LIVE MUSIC VIDEOS

Show your child short video clips of live music. NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts is a wonderful resource. Each video is brief (less than 10 minutes), and there is a very diverse library of quality music to choose from. The concerts are intimate enough to really see musicians play their instruments and sing. Your child may incorporate some of the performances into their play!