“Is it possible to be mindful when listening to music?”
“Where can a mom or dad find good songs for kids?”
“Since when have good listening activities for kids been so hard to find? “
I hear these questions from parents all the time. I’m glad they ask because it’s easy to direct them toward good resources so their children can learn through listening.
Being mindful when choosing what our kids listen to is important. Kids are ALWAYS listening and learning. The lyrics of the songs they hear inform them about what people outside the family are doing. Hopefully, they are wholesome. Exposure to music when our kids are young weaves them a tapestry of understanding and processing sound that they will compare future music to and will influence their choices. Let’s hope the musical tapestry to which they’re exposed is complex and beautiful.
Most important, who they listen to music with as they grow will affect who they listen to music with when they are older. Let’s set family musical listening and engagement happen as a part of the daily routine!
Did you know being mindful about music is easier than you think? If your kids have ears, you’re in business. Well, kind of.
As a musician since the age of 6, I knew music was my calling. I went to school many years later, specializing in sensory play to help kids of all ages and skill levels learn. Then several years after that, I was certified to teach Music Together, an organic way of bringing music to kids through the family. You could say I’ve come full circle.
In all these endeavors, it became clear that in order for kids to learn and use music in the long term, it has to be seen as a family activity. I’m not suggesting that every parent pick up a new instrument, but even the most tone-deaf of parents can select music to listen to and enjoy as a family.
So you might be thinking: just turn on the radio, right?
If you turn on the radio today, many stations play the same kind of music. There doesn’t seem to be much variety. The music industry is primarily about selling music, and music that’s “different” doesn’t lead to many sales. So this leaves us as parents with fewer choices and less say in the quality of music we get to choose.
Many radio stations play music with a specific signal frequency. The idea is to make it not different, but mostly the “same”, within a consistent set of frequencies. All of the frequencies are compressed down into a very narrow listening range (or ‘band’). It’s like taking a mega-sized soup pot of clam chowder, with all its diversity and goodness, and compressing it into a sardine can. Not all that exciting.
These days, Radio is controlled by a handful of huge media companies, and when they realized that the music that people buy is basically “more of the same”, they decided that originality and sonic variety weren’t qualities they wanted to emphasize. The effect of this is that when you turn on the radio, yours and your kids’ ears don’t develop to nearly their potential to be avid listeners and develop a deep appreciation of music, let alone carry a tune or play an instrument.
Below I have a sample of 6 songs in the current genre of modern country music (which, I admit, I used to like a lot) that, when mashed up together, actually sound like one song. This means that not only are the frequencies used in the music compressed to exactly the same levels, but also that the words and themes fit together topically. Just watch as the song scrolls by and the different songs are played simultaneously. Amazing.
Develop Your Kid’s Musical Aptitude:
Musical Aptitude refers to a person’s innate ability to acquire skills and knowledge required for musical activity, and may influence the speed at which learning can take place and the level that may be achieved. (Wikipedia)
Knowing that kids have a “window” of musical development that peaks between 0-5 years of age, what they’re listening to is important. Educational pioneer Maria Montessori refers to this window of opportunity as the “sensitive period.” There are other schools of musical thought that say this period can go well into the 7th and 8th year of a child’s life, and beyond.
Regardless of the age of your child, the answer for developing musical aptitude is to get your kids listening to good music. Be thoughtful about the music you choose for yourself and your family.
Are you ready for some good music?
Your kids are ready!
You think “Where can I get some good old-fashioned music?”
Here are a few ways to be more mindful in your selection of music as a parent:
1. Try visiting your local library’s music section. By that, I mean the grownup section, and check out some CDs! Don’t check too many out of the children’s section.
Kids’ music is so often very basic. There are exceptions, of course, but it generally means that if your kid listens to very basic music, their ear learns very basic skills. If that’s what you want, then listening to “kiddie” type music will work.
2. Listening to more complex rhythms, sounds, instruments and tonality will develop kids’ ears so they can understand and enjoy these qualities. Adult music in the classical, Jazz, folk, and world music genres will provide you with great choices. If you pick music you like, so much the better. Just make sure the lyrics are age appropriate.
Here are three resources I use all the time. The first two use kids’ songs in complex ways. The third is a masterpiece all on its own, good for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others.
For little ones, here is an example of Jazz used to teach babies a greeting that can be used when you arrive home or anytime you and your family is up for some fun and singing! It’s called Welcome My Baby.
A resource for kids specifically that utilizes folk, blues, classical, and a variety of cultures is Music Together. This is one of my favorites, and you can find many resources on YouTube for free! It called Ridin’ in the Car.
This last resource my kids heard for the first time at a free symphony concert. They could not be distracted! It’s great for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others. In The Hall of the Mountain King
3. Being Consistent with Music Engagement teaches children to be mindful of what they listen to on a daily basis as they grow.
Make family music time a priority. When you hit the library for books, hit the CD rack too. Go to YouTube and see what you like. See what your significant other likes. See what your kids gravitate to. If your kiddo likes the idea of a trumpet, google search “top trumpet players” and see what you can find out.
There is no doubt that your musical ear will be developing on a growth curve if you take this approach. And remember, even if you don’t love a particular genre at first, music has a way of growing on you.
Just make sure to start the habit of Music Mindfulness-and keep it going. If you should break out into random singing and dancing as well, so much he better! If you start singing in the shower, more power to you. Just have fun.
Your kids will surprise you if you give them the chance.
Your children deserve a good shot at a lifetime of good music.
We hope this was informative for you and your family. Let us know if you tried some of the ideas shared in this article. We love your comments, because they help us learn what your needs are and what we can do to make Swami Mommi even more relevant.