Is my child learning in music class?

A Dad asked me last week about what to do to encourage his child to stay in the room at Noise Lab during our workshops and I didn't have a great answer in the moment. I've further reflected on the idea of how a child should "look" involved to be involved in music.

A child engaged in music may look like.....

Music is an aural and oral language. It is internalized and learned by listening and doing. Depending on their age, day, time, week, learning style, level of interest, and many many factors, a child may be fully engaged while standing outside of the room at Noise Lab or not engaged at all inside the room. Children are born learning. They wake up every day learning. All of their senses are being called upon to process the many new things life sends their way each and every waking minute. And it's hard! If a child leaves the workshop they may be feeling overwhelmed or they made need to process something from before and we've moved on too quickly. Or maybe they're hungry and need a break. They also might need to move! Or maybe they just don't like the song we're singing! :-) What I love about Noise Lab workshops is that despite all of the ins and outs, in the end I'm learning about my child (and all of yours) and bonding with them while we make meaningful music together. 

Think big picture

My children are certainly not model students at Noise Lab. They sometimes need attention that I can't provide and are often not doing what everyone else is doing. I believe that my participation and enjoyment transfers and allows for them to stay engaged because I'm engaged. I know this to be true because my children sing the Noise Lab songs when no one is watching and often request to listen to them at home. Despite their behavior in class, they are still learning. Is it always fun having them? Not always! The environment that we're creating for our children establishes their first connections with music. You are creating a powerful bond with your child and for your child with music that will last a lifetime.

Expectations

Is it reasonable to expect a 18 month old to sit for 45 minutes? Absolutely not! Is it reasonable for a 4 year old? Absolutely not, although some can. While our workshops incorporate movement and we often change things up to account for the need to wiggle it is not realistic to expect any child that attends our class to sit still. In fact, if they all did it'd be so boring! I'm inspired by my colleagues at Bing Nursery School that have created a thoughtful schedule for their classrooms. What do they expect? After 3 hours of free play children ages 3-5 are asked to sit at story time for 15 minutes! That's it! 

Overview

  • Movement in and out of the classroom is okay (though play equipment should be off limits during the class) and may be what your child needs to learn.
  • The week to week may not look pretty but will accumulate in a lifelong meaningful experience and bond with music that you are gifting your child.
  • Expectations for what your child should be able to do and what they can actually do may not be the same (a lesson I learn constantly).
 add "and hear" after "see."

add "and hear" after "see."

Meaningful Music Making With Your Children In the Car

Some of the most meaningful music I hear from my children comes while we're driving around town. I often leave the radio off to allow for these spontaneous musical interactions. My 3-year-old often sings about what he sees, either using pre-existing melodies or making up new melodies. Sometimes the music isn't very meaningful, and that's okay too! I resolve to listen either way and record as I did earlier this month. 

I feel that providing him space to create music is giving him a gift of spontaneity, uninterrupted time, and space to be bored. It's also amazing to witness how my 10 month old responds. She usually chimes in singing related pitches.

Of course we put on recorded music too, or the radio, or sing together. I recently found a video of a family singing a John Coltrane solo on a tune called 26-2. All choruses. WOW!

Most of us would probably shy away from introducing our children to Coltrane, thinking it's too hard or wouldn't mean much to them. The above family demonstrates how false that belief can be. I also love James Corden's Carpool Karaoke with Stevie Wonder. Even Stevie makes music in the car!

So whatever the music may be, if you love it, share with your children. And allow them space to create their own too!

When is my child ready to play an instrument?

 

The most common question we hear is, "when is my child ready to play an instrument?" We usually reply, "how many songs does your child know?" Musical development unfolds differently for everyone depending on many factors including desire, ability, and exposure. Playing an instrument not only requires physical skills but it's also important to remember that an instrument is a tool used to communicate. When a child knows many melodies, can sing the resting tone of songs they know, and has the physical skills required to hold an instrument, a child is ready to play! 

To prepare a child for an instrument parents should create a music rich environment that includes:

1. Singing with your child constantly (in child friendly keys like Eb)

2. Listening to quality live music as often as possible

3. Moving and dancing to live music

Once you think your child is ready for an instrument there's no need to rush out and buy an common instrument such as violin or find a private lessons teacher. Let your child play with an instrument such as a kazoo or glockenspiel. Play and sing through the songs your child knows. There is plenty of time in a child's life for formal learning. Think about when your child first began speaking. Did you rush out and find a language tutor and begin learning sentence construction? Too often, this happens in music, which creates a gap between skill and understanding. For every time we've been asked "when is my child ready to play an instrument" we've been told stories of parents/children that used to play an instrument but quit because they had a negative experience. Keep it fun and keep it engaging by focusing on the music environment you are providing your child.

Below is a TEDx talk by Dr. Christopher Azzara discussing how we learn music.