Why doesn’t my child join in with the actions? They just want to sit in on the group music?

Tuesday 15th April

Often parents me will ask why their child doesn’t appear to be joining in with the social interactions of the music class. My response is to ask whether their child sings any of the songs or does the actions at home. The answer is generally yes and that their child often sings all the way home. A child may need much time to watch, listen and to absorb the whole nature of the music programme. When a child watches, listens and processes intently, mirror neurons are firing in the child’s brain laying down a store of memories.

The child needs to be given time to wait, watch, listen and learn. There are so facets of the language of music, many rhythms, sound patterns, new and unfamiliar games, so many faces the child has not seen before. The patterns of musical play, the rules and mores become familiar through repetition.  As the child watches week by week, or month by month, the musical form and the melodies of the songs and dances gradually become familiar if the child is given time. The elements of music become internalized and can become part of the child’s self expression and personality. Several parents have patiently sat with their child as others have sung and danced around them until the magical day when their child joins in. I have found that these watching, listening children develop a strong sense of rhythmic flow, an innate feel for musical form, sing tunefully and musically and often become our most musical children who go on to play an instrument, sing in choirs, play in bands and orchestras. For many of these observant children, music becomes their lifelong passion.

George at two years of age sat on his mother’s knee observing everything closely but did not join in any musical interactions. He showed intense interest in the musical instruments and I noticed him keeping a very steady but unobtrusive beat with his foot as the other children played. He would often go and explore these instruments after the class was finished. He would be totally absorbed in listening to specific sounds, often listening with an instrument held up to his ear as he quietly scraped, shook or tapped an instrument. After nearly a year of being a spectator within the music group, George was avidly watching other children to see their reactions and laughing out loud at any humorous situation. Although he was initially reluctant to show what he could do, more and more he delighted in offering musical responses.

By the time George was three he could copy simple rhythmic patterns, play a short musical sequence on the chime bars and copy a four beat melodic phrase on these chime bars. George’s parents bought him his own set of chime bars and with our regular chime bar play, he began composing his own little tunes and giving nightly concerts to his family. His parent’s actively encouraged his creative musical play and his mother reported that “his expressive language took off at the same time as he began creating music patterns”. Now George is at school and his teacher reports that he wants music at every opportunity. She is now incorporating music to underpin her entire teaching programme. She firmly believes “that music is helping all the children to remember the sequence of activities, mathematical concepts, language acquisition, social skills, and most importantly, the children enjoy learning through music” and George is her “most enthusiastic player”.