I'm excited to have the time now to go back to a favorite subject of mine: music & children! I'm going to give five suggestions for incorporating music into your days with your baby or toddler (older kids, too).
1. Pitch Matching- Here's my first attempt at "vlogging" (video blogging), since it would be a lot clunkier to explain the "game" of pitch-matching than to "show" it!
2. Read rhythmic books- get into a rhythm and read the "chorus" the same way each time (see, you can be musical without having a great voice!). Rhythm is half of music,-- don't underestimate it! A short list of my favorites: We're Going on a Bear Hunt (by Michael Rosen), Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (by Bill Martin, Jr.), King Bidgood's in the Bathtub (by Don & Audrey Wood), Barnyard Dance! (Sandra Boynton).
3. Turn off the battery-operated "musical" toys- I know, it kind of seems counter-intuitive. Hear me out, ok? One of the most disturbing trends I dealt with as a middle-school choir teacher was the misconception (all-pervasive overwhelming cultural maxim, it seemed like!) that music should be easy. If it wasn't, the student (and often his parents) assumed that "music just isn't his thing; he just can't sing." I am here to tell you that music is NOT easy for many people, and that any person (with the possible exception of those with a severe auditory processing disorder) can LEARN to sing. Music is like anything else; some people have an aptitude for it, getting good at it takes hard work, it has a practical as well as a mental aspect to it, anyone can learn it, and good teachers help with that learning process. Compare it to math; if your child isn't a whiz at math, do you automatically assume "oh well, it's just not his thing"? No, you probably look around for another way to present the material, and you put in extra time & effort until it becomes more or less second nature. What does this have to do with battery-operated toys? Those reduce music to simple one-step-cause-and-effect: push a button, hear music. No work, no investment, on and off at will. A friend of mine told me she didn't mind battery toys because "I can't sing to her all day," and I realized that that's kind of the point. When we aren't always available to sing to our children, that very inability is communicating to them that music takes something out of us; it isn't just constantly available, on-demand in the background. It should take our focus. It should have a beginning, middle & end, not a on-off switch that can be started and re-started repeatedly. I think that some toys can help with musical education (Eowyn has 3 that come to mind, including a little drum that has several styles of beats)... just use them occasionally, like desserts instead of a staple food.
4. Do buy no-tech musical instruments- by this I mean actual musical instruments: xylophones, bells, maracas, shakers, glockenspiels. Make your own drum out of a coffee tin & wooden spoon. Make a shaker by filling a container with beans. By playing with these, they will learn to associate larger size with lower pitch, that vibration causes sound, and to differentiate between pitches. There will never be a time when they didn't just "know" those things, just as children rarely remember learning that objects fall down (not up), or that water is wet. They just learned that by experiencing it over & over again.
5. Play songs from around the world- Raffi is a wonderful artist in this way, singing with everything from steel drums to kazoos to piano & strings, often in other languages! Another good starting point is Wee Sing Around the World (book and cd) Most public libraries have children's CDs you can check out from all over the globe! Just like you give your child a varied diet with veggies, fruits and meats of all tastes and nutrients, give your child's ear a full buffet of harmonies, rhythms and tones!
Ok... what about you? What tips do you have for incorporating music into your every day mommy life?