Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"Musical Tennis": Serve and Return Learning

We all love the play along time in Music Together. It is beautifully exciting to see the way kids' eyes light up as the bin of instruments is carried to the middle of the room. Even as an adult, you can’t help but get tickled at the brightly colored music makers. It can be easy to miss, in all this excitement, that this is one of the best times to connect with your child’s personal musical learning. 

During this time, no one is dictating how or when to play with the music. Instead, the child has total freedom to experiment and guide its own musical experience. We adults have the opportunity to respond to that learning. 

Watch your child closely. Pay attention to how they experiment with an instrument or interact with a particular beat in the music. Maybe they are dancing instead of playing an instrument! Respond to these ideas.

If your child picks up a drum, find a drum so that you may play along with them and respond to their musical ideas. If they are dancing, don’t be afraid to get up and dance too. When you respond to your child like this, you create a perfect environment for them to learn.   

Many neurological connections happen when a child acts on an idea, and then has that action affirmed through repetition and interaction with another person. This back-and-forth between child and parent creates a healthy “feedback loop” that solidifies a learned action. 

This idea of “back-and-forth” works almost like a tennis game between child and parent.  Experts in early childhood development and neuroscience call this interaction: “serve and return” learning. 

This “serve and return” can be very simple. If your child is shaking a maraca in a particular way, return the gesture. If your child is dancing and using a strange movement to the beat (don’t be afraid to look silly) go ahead and mirror that rhythm and gesture. You can affirm a learning moment through your demeanor, facial expressions, and actions. 

Look for ways to enter this “tennis game” of learning with your child. And next time you hear the play-along music begin, seek out a chance for you and your child to “serve and return” a musical idea!