Click HERE to access Julie’s writing on this subject from 20th January 2016.
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Click HERE to access Julie’s writing on this subject from 20th January 2016.
Many of my songs on my CDs are designed to bring children into a place of calm and relaxation. Songs that arouse, then calm, like “Baby Massage” from my CD “Rock-A-Bye Blues” help you and your child to relax and encourage mutual feelings of calm through the use of the beautiful predictable simple melody and deep pressure massage strokes. Deep pressure cuddles using the palms of your hands, (not finger tips) as you hold and cuddle your child, help your child feel safe and secure, helping your child go to sleep.
The science supporting use of deep pressure touch is called Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation (DPTS). Most of us would have would have been swaddled/wrapped tightly in a blanket at bedtime, and we might then have been rocked gently as our mother/father or grandparent sang us a lullaby. The pressure from being wrapped, rocked, stroked and sung to relaxes the nervous system. This pressure from being wrapped and held in a loving way helps generate serotonin, which then generates to melatonin. This is the chemical that tells your system that it is time to rest or sleep.
At the Champion Centre we find that children who are anxious or upset can be calmed through the use of massage, slow singing, or being gently rolled in a mat, covered with a weighted blanket. We all find that at the end of Summer we can sleep more easily when we can once more feel the weight of our duvet or a thick comforting blanket, or wrap ourselves up in a blanket and enjoy a soothing hot drink as we cuddle back into a comfortable chair.
Other strategies that can be used:
The slow, blowing of a bubble, or a feather. This naturally slows our breathing rate. As a child watches, listens to your slow breathing, waits and watches the bubble grow, they learn to become calm and regulated. This is a beautiful, interactive calming activity that can be used as a regular routine after bath-time and before bed-time.
Developing regular daily calming routines such as:
Singing beautiful songs and playing at bath time. Make this a relaxing fun time to enjoy each other.
Singing a book of lullabies, nursery rhymes, reading rhythmic stories, rocking together in a rocking chair, singing to your child as they rock on a rocking horse. Rolling a ball slowly back and forth to each other.
Swinging your child in a swing and singing songs that fit the swinging action.
At the end of each day take time for deep pressure massage and cuddles before bedtime.
A well regulated child is able to learn and develop cognitive skills because the lower brain is calm and regulated.
© Julie Wylie, 27 June 2017
Reflections from my recent invitation to present my musical play philosophy in North China. Julie Wylie. Copyright 2017.
I have worked with many children, families and teachers in different parts of the world, and once again my trip to China demonstrated clearly how music can brings families, communities, society and cultures together. It doesn’t matter if we can’t speak the same language, when we sing, dance and play together, we are all united through the infectious, universal, emotional, joyful language of music.
Children everywhere have the same wonderful response to music, especially when they can participate freely responding to the predictable structure of musical form and the expressive elements of music which unite us as a group. The children I worked with in two very large pre schools were so excited when we sat around the rainbow ring and bounced in time singing echo songs and improvising with sounds, gestures and movement. Some children went into the middle of the circle and were so full of joy when I copied their actions. Teachers were amazed that there clearly was no right or wrong way to play. The secret was total enjoyment through predictable songs with a clear beginning, middle and end. Every child responded to our play and stop games with the extended pauses. Every child responded to our improvisations, that incorporate elements of surprise, anticipation and stop! Soon many of the children were singing their versions of “Bop it in the Rocket”.
I used playful music games with pitch and rhythmic patterning designed to help the children to read the words, to experience the melodic shape of the pitches through pitch games and to sing the tune from the simple notation. Although we are from different cultures,these children in China, like ours in New Zealand, were using creative and analytical thinking, coding and simple reading/literacy skills to read the pitch, notation and words. We focus so much on literacy and numeracy in our schools, but music helps memory and is the only language that helps children to decode three symbolic languages simultaneously!
At the end of one large music session, every single child came up and one by one they hugged me. I looked around at all the parents and grandparents and they we all nodding and smiling at me. I was invited to people’s homes and experienced wonderful hospitality. Two distinct cultural groups came together to sing, dance, say and play together. Many of the children were experiencing a range of rhythmic songs, dances and words from the English language. We were altogether in the moment and they were singing, clapping and dancing along, even though the words were strange.
Every time I presented music sessions in China, whether it was for families, children or teachers, something magical happened. We were all connected in a very powerful way. We experienced how music naturally brings a strong sense of harmony, of connection and well being. Music activates our brains and releases feel-good hormones like dopamine. Music is a natural part of our humanity and draws us together in incredible ways. When I was sharing my music in China I felt completely at home. Regardless of our culture, our backgrounds, music binds us together, breaking down barriers, opening up rich experiences of creativity, imagination, communication and love.
I WONDER WHERE YOU ARE HIDING. Julie Wylie copyright 2017
Organza is a beautiful prop to use in music to promote interactive, relationship based musical play between parent and child, to help pitch awareness as we sing up and down the major and minor scales, floating the organza, teaching children about prepositions through sensory experiences such going around, over, under, between, inside, outside. Social skills are developed as children play follow the leader games going under the red, blue, green or the rainbow. Langue skills, concepts of colours, numbers, spatial awareness and creativity develop when children come up with their own ideas.
Babies love the beautiful peek-a-boo games with their parents. These are the babies’ first games which help to develop understanding of the world of pretend. I know you are there, but where are you? I see Mummy peek out from behind her hands. Such games promote watching, waiting, listening and anticipation and loving interaction and relationship and what a special moment when the baby sings the answering “Boo!”
Here is a beautiful family joining in our hiding game:
I wonder where you are hiding
I wonder where you are hiding
Where are you?
Where are you?
Peek a peek a peek a peek a Boo!
Julie Wylie 2017
Quinn started coming to my musical play classes when he was about three months old. The emphasis in the baby class was on developing a strong musical relationship between parent and child. Lap games were played, with parents gently bouncing or rocking their baby, or dancing with their baby in time to specific songs using ascending and descending pitches, play and stop songs, peek a boo songs and nursery rhymes. The music sessions include much use of repetition and predictable music structure in each music session, in order to to develop listening, anticipation, timing and joyful synchronous play between parent and child.All instructions are sung and there is much use of echo songs, so that there is a seamless musical flow in every class.
Quinn watched everything and listened very intently from the start. Like many of the other babies in the class he was soon bouncing in time using whole body movements in time to the songs. He would respond to the musical pauses and could stop for the music cues. At home he would dance in time to the sound of the washing machine and immediately tune in to all things musical, both inside and outside. When Quinn began crawling, he began to take the music lead, often crawling into the middle of the group around the rainbow ring and would delight in moving and playing and having me sing about what he was doing moment by moment such as Quinn is waving, bouncing, crawling, toddling, or dancing In the middle. Even at a very young age He was able to follow simple sung instructions such as “going back to mummy now”.
Quinn has always been extremely interested in the piano or keyboard and delights in sitting alongside me as I play for the group. He initially sat watching my hand positions and listening intently. Now aged two and three quarter years, he is able to find a note or notes within my pitch range and play very softly alongside me. He began watching how I played the foot pedal. This resulted in him sitting under the grand piano or sitting by the pedal if I was playing a keyboard. During the last session Quinn wanted to do all my piano pedalling, nearly all of it in time and with a great approximation of how I use the pedal to enhance musical expression and to sustain certain notes.
Quinn plays in time, uses rhythmic patterns, is very aware of pitch and melodic contours, he sings, moves and plays musically. He often conducts my movements using hand and arm gestures, or the ribbon stick. He is highly engaged and involved in musical play. When I sang for the children to go back to their places recently, instead of going to his mother as all the other children did, Quinn hurried to my side and climbed up onto the music stool and beamed at me with such a look of pride and purpose as we played the “Goodbye Song” together.
His mother reports that all his play is musical. His parents are his musical play partners. Everything he does at home involves some aspect of musical play. He is constantly exploring sounds and sound making, creating his own little songs, rhythmic patterns, asking and singing questions about songs and music that his parents are listening to.
The child is music leader. All these early sensory, musical play experiences help them to incorporate the elements of music into their own play, so that they learn to move fluidly, with a great sense of timing, spatial awareness, able to listen to and copy patterns and to create their own. There is a sense of wonder, delight, emotional connection, creativity and expressiveness in all their musical interactions.
It is precisely this kind of musical play that enables the child to progress to playing an instrument. Quinn is developing a musical passion that will be with him throughout his life. I wonder where Quinn will go to with his music? Will he be like so many of my music children who are now principal players in orchestras, choirs, jazz performers, singers, music teachers, or involved in music research? Quinn is a music child and it is my absolute delight in playing with him musically and helping him on his musical journey.
When we play and really enjoy the lost in the moment playful activities, our brains release the chemical dopamine that gives us a sense of excitement, joy and allows us to move in a highly coordinated way. Play stimulates our senses, creativity, learning. It activates our brains, with over 80% of our nervous system involved in processing and organising all the sensory input from our bodies and the surrounding environment.
Play with your child and give them many rich sensory experiences within a secure, nurturing environment. Appreciate nature. Look at the moon, a sunrise, a beautiful sky. Go to the beach, swim together, play in the park, go for walks to new and interesting places, climb a hill, trees, explore, make up songs, stories, dance, read, go to the library, cook together, collect treasure, make things with the treasure you find. Move, dance, sing and play. Playing keeps you young and vibrant. When we are playful we are flexible,relaxed, loving, sociable, creative. We can take risks, we can come up with new ideas. Taking time out to play helps us to problem solve and come up with new solutions and new ways of doing things.
Children learn the art of play. They learn how to do things in a variety of ways and how to adapt to changes. They learn to play alone or with others. They learn how to lead and how to follow. They learn the rules of play and can also create new rules of their own in a playful game. Through play we learn to let go of the things that are stressful. Play involves laughter, humour, sharing and caring. Wonderful carefree play builds strong, positive memories that stay with us for life.
Babies are play partners from birth. Play is as important for them as food and sleep. Play gives babies and children a strong sense of belonging, connection and wellbeing. When parents spend much time gazing at, talking,singing, dancing playing, touching, holding their baby, this helps healthy brain development, promoting high levels of oxytocin and endorphins in the brain. Play fosters a strong loving relationship which is essential for helping children to become confident, caring, creative, self assured and loving members of society.
Take time to play, to laugh, to make music, to enjoy the wonders of nature, be flexible and enjoy all the rich playful experiences together. It will build strong bonds of love, energise, inspire, enrich your life and your soul.
Bedtime is a wonderfully predictable time of day in our house.
We figured out early on with our first girl Harper that having a steady rhythm to the end of our day made for a more peaceful (and successful) transition to sleep.
Once the girls are in their pjs they each chose a book to read. Then either their Dad or I reads them their books with time to stop to ask or answer questions- or deviate into chats about the day.
…Daddy’s story times are a lot longer than mummy’s.
After books are read, lights are out and prayers are said it’s song time. Our girls are lucky enough to have a whole selection of Lullabies written just for them but over time they have chosen one they like best of all- and we sing this every night with both girls singing along.
I love our bedtime routine as no matter what challenges the day has brought us – we end the day in calm harmony with one another.
Recently, Julie was invited to speak at the IRMTNZ National Conference. Here are some photos from her presentation: Musical Journeys.
Final Reflection by Sarah Marra
It has been such a pleasure to work alongside staff in such a beautiful, nurturing preschool and nursery. Over the past eight weeks I have noticed wonderful amounts of musical play happening organically around the James St environment. Children are singing as they play independently, sharing familiar songs as they play together, keeping the beat on the playground and exploring the natural sounds of their outside world.
Musical play has helped to secure routines in a positive, playful way. The preschoolers are lining up with ease to a familiar, repetitive song; the nursery children are happily following daily routines with sung, clear instructions; all of the children are able to regulate and prepare themselves for learning when deep pressure and song are united in basic routines.
I have watched the staff confidence grow in taking group music sessions as well as in using song to underpin routines and activities. Group music sessions have become relaxed, improvisational, and harmonious.
One of the most exciting things about using music to develop movement, communication, social interactions and understanding is having the privilege of witnessing “firsts”. The children at James St Preschool and Nursery were no exception. I was so privileged to be able to use music to underpin a child’s first steps, a child’s first social group engagement, a child’s first understanding of their own space in relation to others, as well as many other special moments.