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Making Meaningful Music

How to implement music in your daily life with kids

The energy in the room was unbelievable. The music was pumping and a mosh pit had formed. They were jumping up and down and flailing their bodies with reckless abandon, while the more cautious hovered on the outskirts, waiting for a moment of bravery or calm to push their way into the chaos. As we crept into the room, I found a chair in the back and fully took in the scene. Audience? Kids age 0-5 and their moms/dads/nannies/etc. The venue? Our local library. The music? “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” performed by one lady with a microphone, guitar, tambourine, and a lot of confidence.

I put my diaper bag down and set my 2 ½ month-old daughter in my lap. I clapped her hands to the music and bopped her along to the beat with my knees. The mom beside me leaned over: “She is loving this! You should take her to music classes!”

As a mom, my first instincts are to do anything in my power to help my daughter be healthy, happy, strong, independent, creative, social, curious, playful, you name it. If that means signing her up for a class, then she will be there. But on the other hand, if I’m able, I would rather work toward instilling passion at home before signing her up for something. (And let’s be real… classes are expensive and I need my Starbucks!)

In my previous life I was a full-time music teacher. You might think that gives me an edge in the music department over the average Joanne, but when I retired to live a relaxing and restful life as a new mom, I decided never to do anything challenging again. And yet, Ryann has some aspect of music in her life every. single. day. I don’t schedule it in. I haven’t been to a kids concert since the library mosh pit 8 months ago. I don’t have a bunch of percussion instruments lying around or Baby Einstein DVDs or classical music playing throughout the day. I admittedly pin every link that I see on Pinterest, but then it gets lost in the dark abyss of the internet and years later I get an email that says it’s been removed because the content was not approved by the original poster.

So what do I do? I make meaningful music that helps us get through the day.

And so can you. Here's how.

Make Music A Part of Your Routine

The first months of Ryann’s life were so monotonous. Wake up. Change Diaper. Eat. Tummy Time. Nap. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Just adding a song to some of these repetitive activities brought some sanity to my life and gave her an idea of what to expect. I sing a lot of nursery rhymes, but if you don’t know any, sing your favorite songs. If you're finding it's more of a chore than fun, switch it up!

Here’s some songs that we sing throughout the day:

● Getting dressed - “The Hokey Pokey”

● Eating - “I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas”

● Going in the car seat/high chair - “If You’re Happy and You Know it”

● Bath Time - “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Rubber Ducky”

● Changing Diapers - “Shipoopi” (from the Music Man… the brain does amazing things when you’re sleep deprived)

● Wiping Off High Chair - “Clean-Up”

● Anytime I am walking away for a minute - “My Mommy Comes Back”

Use Music to Practice or Learn New Skills or Concepts

Blocks were Ryann’s first motivator. They motivated her to crawl for the first time, which we praised with clapping. In response, she learned to clap with a block in each hand. Here are some physical and conceptual ideas that you can reinforce with music:

● Clapping/Patting/Snapping/Stomping/marching (etc.)

○ “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

○ “B-I-N-G-O”

○ “The Ants Go Marching”

○ Put on your favorite song and clap or march along

● Loud vs. Soft (quiet)

○ “John Jacob Jingleheimer-Schmidt”

○ “Way Up in the Sky”

● High vs. Low

○ Pots and pans

○ SPOILER! Larger objects make a lower pitch; smaller objects of the same material will be higher

○ Slide whistles/xylophone/other instruments

○ Goldilocks Song “Once Upon A Time in a Nursery Rhyme”

○ Use scarves or just your fingers, and stretch up high when the music is high or down low when it is low

● Fast vs. Slow

○ Think of different animals and move as they would move

■ “Tur---tle. Tur----tle” slowly while crawling; “Cheetah cheetah cheetah cheetah!” while running

○ Play some of your favorite fast and slow songs and have a dance party

○ “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes” or any movement song at different tempos (speeds)

● Absolutely anything

○ Counting

■ “Five Little Ducks”

■ “Hickory Dickory Dock”

■ “Five Green and Speckled Frogs”

■ “The Ants Go Marching”

■ “Five Little Monkeys”

■ “1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Indians*” (*or whatever else you want)

○ Alphabet

■ “The Alphabet Song”

■ “A You’re Adorable”

■ Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (that’s right… books are music.)

Get Moving!

In those moments where you just can’t get out of the house, but your kids need to burn some energy, music will become your best friend. Here are some of my favorite movement songs:

● “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”

● “Tony Chestnut”

● “Form Banana” and “Bounce a Ball” Chants

● Have a dance party

● Pop songs with choreographed music

○ “Cotton-Eye Joe”

○ “Cupid Shuffle”

○ “Cha-Cha Slide”

○ “Electric Slide”

○ “Macarena”

○ “Y-M-C-A”

○ “The Chicken Dance”

○ And if you’re unconcerned with lyrics, you could even “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” or “Teach Me How to Dougie”

Whether you are a seasoned musician, karaoke queen, or self-proclaimed tone-deaf, you can do this, Mama… and your kids will think you are the greatest thing since Instagram. Teach your kids that it’s safe to be vulnerable and lead by example. Share your voice, bust a move, and make some music! If you’ve tried everything and your kid is begging for music outside of your home, then congratulations! You did it right.

**Emily McCrory has been a member of FIT4MOM Lorton/Springfield/Burke/Woodbridge/Kingstowne since August of 2016. She is mom to her almost 11 month old daughter, Ryann, and works as a music teacher at Burgundy Farm Country Day School.

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