Whether you’ll be outdoor-schooling, pod-schooling, home-schooling, or regular indoor-schooling, your kids will likely be at home more than they usually are this fall. All those extracurricular activities that have been called off or playdates with people outside your pod that you won’t be doing, all the playgrounds and children’s museums you won’t be going to—it all adds up to a whole lot of time spent at the homestead. How do you make sure this time isn’t a complete black hole of productivity? You guessed it: music!
By now, you know that music boosts brain function, improving your memory and attention and enhancing your language skills. It also facilitates greater social bonding, as making music with other has been linked to the release of endorphins and an increase in oxytocin. And of course, music can decrease stress levels. We all need all these things right now: working on screens may be giving all of us a bit of ADHD (not to mention headaches); doing everything at home and not interacting in real life with coworkers or even friends can easily feel isolating; and there is so much to worry about right now that our stress levels are probably through the roof. We know we have to offer some semblance of normalcy and calm and fun to our children amidst this chaos. So how do you get those good music benefits not only during designated times—like a virtual piano class—but really, all the time? How do you make your home a musical home?
Pbs.org has some great tips in “Creating a Musical Home Environment,” things really anyone can do, even if you’re not Juilliard-trained. Their list includes:
- Put music on at home: Instead of popping in earbuds and walling yourself off from your family, share your favorite songs with them! Of course, only do it when you know there isn’t serious quiet time needed, and you’ll have to test out the waters to see what everyone’s taste is, but just having music on and passively listening to it could increase emotional understanding and even boost language skills in early language learners. Greater Good Magazine, published by UC Berkeley, states that “Studies find that social cohesion is higher within families and among peer groups when young people listen to music with their family members or peers, respectively.” Social cohesion sounds nice right now, doesn’t it?
- Actively listen to music: Passively listening is great! But when you can, engage your kids with the music, too. Ask them questions about what they hear in the music, what the music makes them feel. Being able to distinguish feelings, sounds, etc., is an important developmental milestone. And if the music makes them feel like dancing or singing, then get up and dance! Or sing! Which brings us to our next two tips…
- Sing with your child: The science is overwhelming: singing with others releases endorphins and oxytocin, both hormones linked to pleasure. Studies have found that when you sing with others, your heart beats literally sync up. And good news, for those parents less musically inclined: an article in Time cites a study that proves that you can experience all the positive therapeutic effects from music even when the singing is of “mediocre” quality. Pbs.org agrees, and says the thing that matters, especially when it comes to kids, is repetition: “Singing a small number of songs on a regular basis will help your child learn basic melodies and rhythms.” ABCs here we come!
- Dance with your child: Dancing is not just fun, it also helps kids identify rhythm, which is important for any future music-making. Get your kids excited about dancing to music by calling it a dance party and doing it on weekend evenings (or any time)!
- Make music with your child: This is one of the best ways of all to bond with and model for your kids. Of course, it requires more of a commitment from you, the parent, but maybe learning a new skill is exactly the thing you need to help you destress, focus, and escape from the chaos. This one also doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to start taking guitar lessons—although if you decide to do that, you know where to look! It may just mean that instead of asking your child to do all the above activities by themselves, do it with them!
Now you can feel good about those hours of singing “Twinkle Twinkle” over and over and over again: You’re not only indulging your child’s seemingly bottomless appetite for the same nursery rhyme; you’re also creating an educational and therapeutic environment!