“Every child is an artist. The problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”
- Pablo Picasso
There I was toward the end of the preschool class. The kids were getting tired, a little loopy, and totally distracted.
I had one more song to lead, the silly one about the man in the moon. I had pre-written lyrics, and no matter how awesome I thought the song was, I was losing the kids.
Then it hit me… “Make it about THEM.”
“There was a man lived in the moon,
lived in the moon, lived in the moon,
There was a man lived in the moon,
and his name was Aiken Drum.
And his hat was made of…
“Joey, what was his hat made of?”
He thought… and thought… “Hmm. Pumpkin Pie!” (Yes, this was the class before Thanksgiving.)
And the kids lit up, and they focused.
We went around the circle, inventing these silly, goofy notions about this man in the moon, and the ideas the kids had were BRILLIANT! They sang with so much more energy because they were seeing this man in the moon with their own eyes.
His hair was made of “pink paint”!
His buttons were made of “strawberries”!
Here’s how you can help reveal your child’s imagination at home:
Ask Your Child to Make up New Words to Well- Known Songs
In my house, you’ll hear songs like “Twinkle Twinkle In the Sun”, as re-worded by Sarah, my 3-year old, or many adaptations of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”.
You can start out slow and easy by asking your child to alter one word. Like, “Mary Had a Little_________?” It starts out small, but eventually, you’ll hear them making up their own words entirely.
Ask Your Child Make up Motions to Well- Known Songs
With fresh eyes, kids will find ways to move their bodies in ways you wouldn’t think of.
Take a song like “Rock-a-bye, Baby” and ask them to show you a rocking motion.
Or… “Gia, when we sing “when the wind blows”, how should we move our hands or our feet?”
One of the best parts about being a parent is that we get to see the world through our kids’ eyes. We get to see everything fresh. Music is a vessel for that vision.
Use the comments section to share how you see the world through your child’s eyes.
Kids have energy. This is a good thing! They’re eating, growing, exploring… Babies are looking everywhere, listening, crawling. Toddlers are becoming more mobile, walking, and climbing. Preschoolers are refining their movement, jumping, skipping, and somersaulting.
Do you ever wish you had the secret to calmness for your kids? How can you help them to zero in, listen, and find a calm and happy space? Well, I can share with you what works for me, and music is my inspiration.
My secret to calming the little ones is helping them relax into engaged gentleness.
One effective way to attain this gentleness is by using rhythm.
Observe the rhythms of your child.
Observe the rhythm of his or her:
- Speech/ Sounds
- Body movement
A child who is on edge will usually have fast and/or irregular rhythms in these three areas. Think of the movement of the tail of a cat. If a cat is agitated, its tail twitches spastically. If a cat is happy, he purrs long sighs, moving its tail in more of a regular, flowing manner. We want your kids to feel like the happy, calm kitty.
Engage with your child. See if you can meet eye to eye. Relax. Smile. Let go of thoughts of worry, of any tension in your body. How often do you really meet your child during the day?
Breathe Gently. If you have an infant, model and meet them with your breath. Breathe in through your nose as if there was a butterfly sitting on top. Breathe out warm air through the bottoms of your nostrils. Find a gentle rhythm. Rock your baby in that same gentle rhythm. They will sympathize with your steady beat. Moms of toddlers and preschoolers can begin to instruct their little ones in addition to modeling. If you have trouble finding a rhythm, think of a song that calms you. Breathe to that rhythm. Kids love imagining the butterfly!
Express a Gentle Voice and Gentle Body
The Singing Owl
- Sing with or for your child on an “oo” sound, like the sound an owl makes. Sing gently for as long as your breath can support you, and then begin again. You can stay on one note, or sing sweet melodies.
Nursery Rhymes are great for expressing a slow rhythm, especially for moms who don’t feel comfortable singing. Saying a rhyme or poem gently and slowly will help calm those who listen.
Here’s a rhyme I made up for you to say slowly:
Babies breathing like sun
Flowers blooming one by one
Fairies sleeping in the trees
Glowing in the warm night’s breeze
Add some swaying back and forth, rosy smiles, and a warm heart, and you’re on your way to gentleness.
Happy Thanksgiving! And remember the Butterflies!
Have you ever taken a new way home from work? Made that delicious dish with a new spin? Come up with a way to fix a problem with only a shoestring and a lollipop? Then you have improvised, my friend!
1. To invent, compose, or perform with little or no preparation.
2. To play or sing (music) extemporaneously, especially by inventing variations on a melody or creating new melodies in accordance with a set progression of chords.
3. To make or provide from available materials
Those interested in how music affects the brain, this is for you:
Dr. Charles Limb (surgeon, researcher on creativity and a musician) examined the brain on improvisation and found that when a musician is improvising, the area of the brain that controls inhibition and self-censoring turns off while the autobiographical part of the brain turns on. The autobiographical part of the brain tells your story and carves the path for your own innovation and creative process.
3 Inspired Improv Games
One of the goals we have as teachers of music and movement for young children is to have kids improvising as early as possible. The benefits of improvising lead not only to better musicians, but to innovation. Who knows what creative genius could be unleashed if we teach our children to continue to let go of the over-conscious part of their thinking and to let creativity flow?
I have some games for you. Some are inspired by our music classes and some are ideas of my own.
1) Make up a story for 10 minutes straight.
The spirit of improvisation is not perfection. You don’t need a brilliantly designed plot with foreshadowing and profound symbolism, (though eventually you may get to that point if you keep practicing!) You just need a dose of courage. You need a bit of intestinal fortitude to keep going. Depending on the age of your child, ask them to make up a story too! Playfully encourage them to keep going, even if they feel self-conscious and want to stop. If you don’t have any children, this makes a great Thanksgiving party game!
Bump it up a notch: Act out the story while you tell it.
Bump it up 5 notches: Improvise the story with friends.
2) A Singing Conversation
You do not need to be a professional musician to pull this off.
Improvise a song back and forth with your child or friend. You can choose to sing words or silly syllables. (Think scat singing.) The key to help your child or your friend is to say something like, “I’m going to sing something, then you sing something different, and we’ll keep taking turns.”
When you dance at weddings, do you find yourself dancing the same moves? Perhaps just swaying from side to side in one place and snapping or clapping every now and then? Turn on your favorite song in the privacy of your own home with your kids (or in public), and make up some new moves you’ve never done before. What would it look like if you danced like a daddy long leg spider or like a cake mixer? Or in a way that you just can’t even describe in words? Be free. Be You. Let your kids be themselves.
So, it’s time to tell your story. It’s time to let your creative genius flow. It’s time to water the improvisatory nature that is already in every child.
I am sure that you will agree when I say that we need more effective communication in this world. The Presidential campaign season has, after all, been more about talking than communicating. More and more people are concerned about technology and how it impacts our personal relationships.
What if I told you that this skill of effective, authentic communication begins on day one of life? What if I told you that a child can begin to build and achieve better communication skills in an early childhood music class? Sounds great?
Well, I believe that this so important; I want to help you by giving you a few golden nuggets from our Musikgarten music and movement classes that you can use at home right now.
In class, we imitate each other a lot. We imitate the teacher; we imitate our parents, our peers. This is how we first learn to express, by imitating what we hear. In music and movement classes, we imitate words, sounds, melodies, rhythms, and body language.
Activity #1 – Encourage your child to imitate you often. Have them imitate your facial expressions, your body movement, your noises, your words, your singing. Even if they are too young to imitate you quite yet, they’re soaking up everything you do!
Music class also provides an opportunity for children to explore different ways to make music and express themselves in new and creative ways. Being flexible, improvisatory in music and communication is an added social skill that will pay off in the long run.
Activity #2 – Encourage your child to use everyday objects in different ways. What kinds of sounds can you make with the object? With an older toddler or preschooler, what are the different ways you can describe or use the object?
Music class provide a fun, non-threatening environment for children to express themselves with and in front of other people. Qualified music teachers are not only trained teach music, we’re trained to listen attentively to children, to validate what they are expressing, and to encourage them with positive feedback.
Activity #3 – Find the time and patience to fully listen to your child when they are speaking, cooing, babbling, singing, or dancing. Sing with them or for them often. Have your child sing a song he or she learned for others. The more positive experiences you can create for them surrounding their self-expression, the better.