For thousands of years, human beings made music on a daily basis, and their babies, toddlers, and young children were never far away, taking it in, and eventually joining in. So you might say that we are hard wired to have music in our lives! (and the psychologists are bearing this out, over and over). Not just to listen to music, but to create music, and to move to music.
As recently as a hundred years ago, most American homes had a piano or some other instrument to accompany their singing and movement. Children sang and danced along as soon as they were able.Parents sang lullabies to put the little ones to sleep. Farmers sang as they moved around the field. There were hunting songs, building songs, housework songs, religious songs. When folks socialized, they made music together. Music and movement was a part of everyday life, and from the time they were born (or before, since we now know babies can hear from the womb!), children were included in musical activities, which were daily activities.
It’s only in the last 75 or so years that music is left up to the “professionals”- On recordings, radio, TV, and occasionally “live” concerts. But many parents no longer have a repertoire of songs to sing with their kids – they often give them CDs instead. Technology is great, but isn’t something missing?
I encourage all parents to start making music with their children. Make it your business to find songs that can be sung to (and with) children at bedtime, bath time, mealtime, potty time, playtime, “work” time (like while they put away their toys), etc. These songs can be used while the child is in an anxiety-producing situation, such as at the doctor’s office, or when parents are leaving the child with another caregiver.
Please start singing with your children, clapping with your children, moving with your children to music, and making your family life more musical, in general. We are all hard wired for it, and it is an essential part of socialization.
In Music Together®, we learn some twenty new child-friendly songs each semester. We work with the grownups, in order that they incorporate “homemade” music into their children’s everyday lives.
This post was written by Paula Lockheart, the Director of Lockmusic, one of many Music Together® centers in Long Island and Queens. She is glad she comes from a musical family, where Dad led in group singing, and played piano, guitar, harmonica, etc. She has a Masters in Ethnomusicology, which she received after a long career as a professional singer and composer. Visit our Community Resources for more information about Music Together® and the exact location of the Long Island and Queens centers.