How to play music with your child
Music is such an important part of life and I'm keen to introduce new grand daughter to music as much as possible. I already sing songs to her, any songs, not just nursery rhymes, but what else would she like?
Babies (under one year)
- Your baby's brain is quickly developing the capacity for language at this time. It has been shown that a great familiarity with musical notes and scales can improve a child's ability to understand speech, and this can in turn later enhance his or her reading aptitude.
- Try to introduce your baby to a range of musical concepts. Typically, nursery rhymes tend to be in a major key and with a 4/4 rhythm, but also sing songs from folk or other traditions that have a more varied range, and can provide a sense of contrast.
- Exercise with your baby: lying on a mat, clap your baby's hands according to the different note lengths. Hold your baby's hands together throughout the length of each note. You can also try bouncing your baby on your knee energetically during a song with a 4/4 beat; and rocking your baby from side to side during a 3/4 song.
- During these years, children are thought to be at their most receptive. Singing in tune is a developmental milestone that may still be some way off, but listening to music and singing along can have beneficial effects. Rhythmic skills, however, develop sooner, and most children of this age will be able to clap and move to the music. Activities along these lines have been shown to be linked to enhanced mathematical ability, and also correlate with general intelligence and problem solving.
- Exercise: clap long to the beat, making the first clap louder than the other claps. This develops your child's intuitive understanding of time signatures. You can also introduce basic percussion, either with pots and pans or must by tapping different body parts, producing a range of sounds.
Schoolchildren (aged four to seven)
- Music can be a great mood-booster and it has been shown to increase performance by enhancing feelings of happiness. Although the school day can be long, a bit of music in the morning can perk up your child and give him or her a good start to the day.
- Introducing a musical instrument, even at this early stage, can be extremely beneficial. Half an hour per week of musical engagement can be all that it takes to activate benefits to all areas of your child's life.
- Exercise: standing up, encourage your child to tap his or her right and left legs on alternate beats. Depending on the speed of the music, you can also introduce an exercise that involves a clap on the back beat, thereby introducing the concept of syncopation - rhythms that start off-beat.
For more information see: moosicology.com; The Music Miracle by Lisa Henriksson-Macaulay (£16.99, Earnest House)Also: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-25811913
Five of the best for young music-lovers
- Baby's first birthday band set: This musical instrument set (by Halilit) is a great way to get your baby into music from an early age. The pack comes with a range of instruments, from maracas to bells, and it includes a CD so parents can play along too. Suitable from the age of 12 months (£19.95 John Lewis).
- Wooden musical instruments: A charming, colourful set that includes a mini guitar, tambourine, pair of castanets, flute, tambourine and harmonica. It will get your little one turning their hand to producing something tuneful - or at least enthusiastic - in no time. (£59.90, notonthehighstreet.com)
- Mini ukulele starter package: This mini ukulele is perfect for children of all ages and will allow them to get a grasp on a small musical instrument before moving on to a bigger guitar (£29.99 Amazon).
- Xylophone with music book: A vintage-style xylophone to provide your toddler with hours of musical fun ("18.99, notonthehighstreet.com).
- Music maker table: A mini music table that will allow your buzzing Mozart to get a feel for all types of sounds. It includes a drum, xylophone, miniature cymbals and rhythm sticks (£39.00 notonthehighstreet.com).
From the Sunday Telegraph, 23/2/2014, Caterina Zarzana and Jake Wallis Simons.