The recent earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand have caused much suffering and devastation for many people. Like us, many families have lost their homes and have had to shift house several times. Since the earthquakes we have had a marked increase in the number of children and their families joining our musical play classes. Parents report that although they have had to shift house, the musical play provides consistency in their family life, providing strategies for parents to help their children with daily routines and music classes and sometimes whole groups go and have a coffee together or go to a park with their children after the music classes.
Many parents have spoken about the huge benefits of musical play in their family life since they began coming to my musical play classes. The role of a music facilitator is not just to provide music. Especially since the earthquakes the music groups are used as a source of nurturing and valuable learning and joy for parent and child. For many families it has been a stabilizing and enriching influence. The music group brings everyone together in a special way. It has a strong influence on the establishment of family routines, communication, creativity, musicality and the modelling of calming regulating activities that can be used at home when the child is upset or tired.
Holly’s mother says that “music has given us such joy. It has transformed our family life. The times I spend with Holly and Ruby at music class are some of my most special times each week and the spin-off last for ages afterwards. At home Holly acts as if she is the teacher. She is always singing to Ruby and wants her to be involved in her music activities. She makes up little songs for Ruby using her own words. I believe it has helped Holly to become much more independent, able to entertain herself and others and to really love her music. Listening has become a real focus for her. She is always stopping to listen to something and getting us to listen with her”.
Lydia’s mother reported that although she is only two years and three months old, Lydia is singing all the time. “When we sing echo songs, she echoes back with obvious enjoyment. Music has helped her to become much less fearful and she enjoys going to the nurturing environment of her musical play class. She is becoming more confident, able to handle change and is much less clingy. Although we shifted house for the second time and everything was new for her, our musical play supports all our daily routines and provides a feeling of familiarity and consistency for Lydia. She loves our “Cuddle Song” which I made up for her and we use Julie Wylie’s “Sing and Play” and “Rock-A-Bye Blues” CDs all the time, especially if she is tired or upset. Her favourite song is track 21 “Bubbles Pop” from “Sing and Play.” I blow the bubbles very slowly and my slow sustained breathing out as I blow a bubble helps her to listen, wait, watch the emerging bubble and gradually calm down during the bubble blowing and accompanying song”.
Not only have these parents and children been able to invent their own spontaneous songs, but also their musical play provides valuable distraction, nurturing, predictability and stability in an otherwise uncertain world.