How to bond with your child through music making at home

Did you know that music is considered to be an all-brain activity? When music is processed in the brain, all domains of the brain are activated. This includes structures responsible for emotions and motivation. This helps a child to connect with others on an emotional and social level, and plays an important role in early childhood development.

Music contributes towards:

  • A child’s ability to adapt to new surroundings and people much easier
  • Children understanding and controlling their own emotions better
  • Responding to and treating others with empathy

When children make music with others, it provides them with a sense of acceptance and belonging as music allows a child the opportunity to express their unique and creative thoughts and ideas in a constructive and positive way. Music is easily introduced and received by children because it involves a lot of imaginative play. Imaginative play (also known as make believe or pretend play) brings out the healthy and creative parts in a child.

Some parents might find the act of music making difficult for various reasons. Perhaps they did not have formal music training or do not consider themselves as “musical”. Here are a few facts and tips to ease you into the idea of making music with your child at home:

  1. Be playful and spontaneous

When using music in a playful and creative context with your child, the quality of your singing or instrument playing does not matter. EVER! What does matter is your willingness to be playful, spontaneous and fully present with your child.

  1. Use songs that both you and your child know well.

Think of songs you used to love as a child, or sing simple nursery rhymes. If you don’t know any, look them up on the internet or ask your child’s teacher which songs they sing at his or her school.

  1. Remember: children LOVE to sing or listen to the same songs over and over.

The repetition of something they enjoy, as well as the predictability of it, provides a sense of emotional safety and security.

  1. Invest in or make your own musical instruments

Use small percussion instruments to play turn-taking games or rhythmic imitation games. Small percussion instruments such as small egg shakers, maracas or bells work well and are affordable.  To make your own, put some rice in an empty toothpaste box and tape it securely for your child to shake. Or use a cardboard box, or tupperware and a spoon as a drum.

  1. Make sure to include movement as much as possible

Dancing, signing words, marching and stretching are all part of rhythmic expression

  1. Music is a wonderful way to bond with your child

Music is a powerful tool to promote play, bonding and learning. There is no wrong or right in this type of play (for both child and parent). I encourage all parents to turn up the volume, have loads belly laughs with your child and let the music flow! Don’t forget to make regular eye contact with your child during music making activities.

  1. Ensure that there are no interruptions during this special time

Put away cellphones and other electronic devices, switch off the television, put away other toys, and dedicate this time to you and your child.

“For very young children, music has power and meaning that go beyond words. First, and most important, sharing music with young children is simply one more way to give love and receive love.” -E. Carlton

Contributed by Hermi Viljoen, HPCSA registered Music Therapist