Saturday, June 1, 2013

Music for Better Grades

My husband and I are musicians. And we’re parents. When we are onstage, we do our best to really be ON stage. But all our “backstage” experiences with our son (our little frog) deeply affect who we are as people, thus musicians. Recent insights:

OK, this is a cheap blog post title. We're hard-wired to want our kids to achieve academic success for better opportunities, maybe more happiness. And there is solid research about how kids who play music boast higher verbal and math skills than kids who don't.

This graphic at OnlinePsychologyDegree.net explains that kids who play an instrument for just 8 months show a 46% increase in memorization ability. Also, music can enhance language skills, soothe a baby to sleep, or calm or stimulate a toddler.

But at the end of the day, music is just a beautiful activity for kids and parents to share. Take one look at photos from last weekend's Folk College in Huntingdon, PA... or check out the photo below of my friend Sadie and her dad jamming... and you'll see kids of ALL ages singing, playing, and dancing--because it's FUN.

Want your kid to know and enjoy music? Want to help boost your child's "potential." Then make music together! Whether your unique voice is sweet, powerful, raspy, Kermit-like.. or your drumming, strumming, or tooting is melodious or wild, when your child hears, sees and feels the vibrations of you making music, s/he'll likely want to join you.

Pregnant?
Sure, listen to Mozart on your belly, if you like. Studies show that your fetus can hear stuff in there. But most of all, when you sing when pregnant, you get yourself in the music habit. Sing songs you love--and it will be thrilling to sing those same songs once your baby is born. Learn lullabies. And/or make your very own baby lullaby playlist--stuff that you love, that relaxes you.

Have a newborn nursing 24/7? 
Continue to sing to your darling and listen to music! (When my newborn first heard me singing songs he already knew--songs I'd performed many times while he was still an "inside" baby--it was obvious that he already knew them). Here's a lovely post by Narissa Nields about this. And why not gently tap rhythms on your baby's shoulder while singing or listening to recorded music! Also, babies love dark concerts. Get out there and hear music you love in family friendly venues. (You can sit near the door, so if your baby's cries get loud you have an easy exit.)

Have a toddler?
Listen to recorded music. Hint: music by a specific artist, band, or symphony is educational, whereas music that is marketed to be "educational" may be putting marketing muscle before content. For example, "Happy You Made It" by Matt Heaton; or "Tumble Bee" by Laura Veirs; or "Peter and the Wolf" performed by the London Philharmonic will probably be a better listen than Baby Einstein Lullabies. Go see concerts. Teach your kid songs.  I have lots of Kid Music ideas at my Official Site, but any songs that you love are good. Incorporate real or toy musical instruments (toilet paper rolls make stupid and fun kazoos or "trumpets"). Read books about music, like Normal Rockwell's Willie Was Different. If you have books with repeating elements (Little Engine that Could, for example), you could make up a chorus every time you hear a repeated line. Start and STOP! music, and watch your kid wiggle as s/he waits for it to come back on.

Craving social musical outlets?
Go to Irish music sessions as a family. Different from concerts, sessions are casual, organic settings for people who share a musical tradition. Often multi-generational affairs, sessions (or song circles, hootenanies, bluegrass picks) are places where playing music together is natural and easygoing. Another great summer option is to head to a family music camp like Northern Roots in Dummerston, VT (July 12-14); or All Together Singing at the Kripalu Institute (July 19-21). And remember Folk College in Huntingdon, PA for next Memorial Day weekend!

Has the music bug bitten your kid?
Tell your child how nice it is to hear him! Tell her you notice she really seems to enjoy her music hobby! If your kid is taking lessons, make a sacred space (could be a corner, ideally private) for practicing, and ask when it would be best to practice. Help your kid keep that time available for practicing, as often as possible. Beyond that, don't worry if practicing happens or not. And DON'T tell your kid what he's doing wrong while practicing, or what she should have said/done/worn/played at her recital. Let kids do things their way and make "mistakes," and praise their efforts and courage.

Music is fun. Parenting is a hoot. Putting the two together gets an A+.

3 comments:

  1. Absolutely! I consider myself very fortunate that when I was ten or so, my mom supported my desire to learn to play an instrument. I stopped playing in band when I got to high school (due to conflicts with college entry classes I needed) and gradually stopped playing altogether. But 15 years later, I started getting into folk and hauled the flute out of the closet- it's been an enduring source of pleasure and enjoyment in the years since- and introduced me to many new friends as well as my future husband!

    So- as lovely as it is to listen to pros like Matt and Shannon, I can't say often enough what a wonderfully life- enhancing skill music is, even- or perhaps especially!- for people like myself, for whom music will never be more than a fun hobby.

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  2. This is great, Robin. Pros schmoes. Let's all play together and be smart and inspired! Thanks for sharing.

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