Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Making Music Together: What to Expect from Your Child

So, you’ve signed up, and the new session of music classes has begun. But, what exactly should you expect of your child during that musical forty-five minutes a week? 

What do Fiddlesticks teachers expect in the music classroom? What if your child jumps up and wanders to the other side of the room and starts singing a totally different song? What if they start crying or want “space”?

I’ve gotten questions of this kind from countless parents. I am going to try and tackle some of these questions in this blog-post. Trust me. Your child will not be the first run in circles… or wander around greeting other parents in the room. Nor will they be the first to totally reinvent the use of a tambourine. There will be times when you wonder what on earth your kid is doing. There may even be times when we adults wonder what on earth we are doing!

There are bad days when rain, exhaustion, family changes, knee scrapes, late lunches, short naps, car trips, and Incomprehensible Snack-time Cheerio and Juice-box Tragedies all come crashing down right before music time. (I think that every snack time tragedy needs a good title.)

There are also magical days when every child is well rested, well fed, in a good mood, and musically excited. This means a bit of chaos as much as it means order. It means silly songs and serious moments. It also means moments of silence scattered between the singing, playing and noise.

Don’t worry. We expect every child to interact with music in their own way.

Above all, two things:

First, sing with your child. Resist the urge to grab hands and “help” children handle and play their instruments a particular way. Likewise, do not tell a child “Sing!” Instead, jump in, and model the kind of participation you would like to see. They will react if you are sitting right by them participating excitedly… even if that reaction is just watching or listening.

Second, be safe. Don’t be worried if your baby slobbers all over a shaker egg, but be careful as you play with things like rhythm sticks. Help your child learn that musical experimentation is wonderful, and that they can play musically while being safe, careful, and considerate of others.

Pay attention to how the kids are interacting with music:

Some children may loudly and expressively participate in every activity.
These are the children who are obviously comfortable. Even if they are not singing “in tune,” tapping their sticks at the right time, or otherwise participating in the “right way,” it is ok. Let them explore, and join them in exploring music.

Some children may simply sit and watch.
This is a very important part of learning for all children, and should be recognized as a way of participating. Your child is learning! It is absolutely ok for your kid to “just watch.”

Some children may trail off into a personal story or distraction for a minute.
These interruptions really aren’t a problem. I will not “call the child down” and I don’t see these moments as a major distraction. We will find a way to get back on course. And, who knows. We might even begin singing about their story!

Some children may watch for a while, then have a “discovery outburst.”
Though this may seem a distraction, these “light-bulb moments” can lead to some of the best learning for the whole class. I love those moments, even if I have to adjust something in my plan to accommodate them!

Some children may become chaotic individually or as a group.
When this happens we will try and just focus through a musical idea. Remember that your participation gives your child more musical excitement than you can imagine! Just find a way to interact with your child musically, and make sure they are behavi
ng in a safe manner.

But what if something goes wrong?

What is a child starts acting in an unsafe way, physically or emotionally?
This is the one thing that calls for a real pause in either personal or group activity. We must all remember to be safe!  

Wildly flailing an instrument, running past a baby, or knocking over another child can all be considered “unsafe” actions. Most of our focus is on stopping an unsafe action before an accident occurs. If you see something about to happen, try this:

  1. Try sitting/dancing close to the child and modeling song/music action.
  2. Try getting on individual child’s level and reminding them to be safe.
  3. Remove unsafe object (instrument, scarf, etc.) and sit to the side with child for a moment until they are ready to be kind/gentle/cautious/respectful of others again.

What do we do if these measures don’t work… or if my child has an earth-shattering meltdown?

The best thing is to take them aside and help them calm down. This can happen in the room, or you can take them out of the space, or into the hall for a bit, to re-center.

Sometimes, if your child is too stimulated by being in the group space, just going outside the divider will help them calm. Even if you guys need to sit out there to sing, or stand and watch the group sing from outside the divider, it is ok.

It will not be disruptive to leave, calm down, and return to the class. Sometimes those days happen, and you just need a minute!

Music can touch you and your child in a powerful way when you least expect it. 

 Most of all, don't worry. We will have fun. We will laugh, dance, and make noise. Something special will happen in the forty-five minutes that we meet... We will sing together. So lets be silly. Lets sing and play and we will all learn together!!