The joy of music

Have I only posted once this year? Oops! It’s hard to get blog time with so many other things calling for my attention! Plus, I’m really trying to limit Sprout’s media consumption (tv, computers, iPhone) to next to zero because it really isn’t good for development (but that’s a whole other post) so I really do have to model NOT using media myself. All this to say computer time is basically limited to naps and nights.

Anyway, what this post is really supposed to be about is music. Music and children, really. Now, let me go back to my own childhood experience with music – it was really not very good. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always LOVED music. I always remember singing and wanting to play music, listen to music. I would say my life has a soundtrack and I could link specific events to certain songs. However, I couldn’t sing in tune and was actually rejected for school choir sometime around 1st grade. I wanted to learn an instrument (which was free as an afterschool programme) but my parents wouldn’t allow it because, as they said, I wasn’t going to play the violin for a living when I grew up (you have to understand they were hard-working immigrants with only primary instruction and big dreams for their daughters) – it would only take away from more important things like studying. My husband on the other hand did have formal music instruction, but was always told how bad he was.

With a son of my own now, I am determined not to impose my own dreams on him or my preconceptions of whether or not he has talent in any given field. I do, however, want to expose him to the beautiful and joyful things in life: music, art, nature, movement, etc. Despite all my hang ups, music is a big part of my life, and so a part of his as well. We’ve always sung at home, listened to many types of music (I try to keep it upbeat though and haven’t really introduced him to a lot of music I love – don’t know if I should, but it just doesn’t seem age appropriate). We have instruments in the house for Sprout – mostly percussion – and Papa Sprout is back into the guitar.I try to stick to real instruments, but grandparents and others have offered some electronic music toys as well and though they are not my taste, he seems to enjoy them as well and so I put them in the music basket in our living room. He also has some playsilks which he loves to run around with when listening to music and dancing.

For quite a long time, other moms have told me about their babies attending music classes and, quite frankly, I thought a) I DO NOT want to enroll my baby in anything class-like – he is too young to have planned activities, needs mostly free play, and b) it is expensive and I’m sure not really worth it – I’m probably doing these things at home with him anyway.

But then, I kept hearing/reading such good things about this Music Together® programme and decided to give it a try this year through Ding Dong Music. We love it! I was sooo wrong. It’s not cheap, but it is soooo worth it. At the beginning of each term we get a package with 2 cds with class music and activities, a beautiful songbook with illustrations and activities, a DVD & booklet with tips on helping children grow musically, and lots of emails from the Director/Teacher Mariëtte Jansen with information on children’s musical development. Mariëtte is really sweet and the children love her. Alex was absolutely fascinated by her in the beginning and would just stare at her in awe in the first weeks! I must say, she does have a beautiful voice, and just look at her cv! Wow. Anyway, the classes have a certain rhythm to them, always following the same ritual each class, it is definitely guided by Mariëtte, but in a very informal, inclusive way. Each child is free to participate or not in the actual activity, as long as they respect others of course, and Sprout actually spends most classes just observing, very still and quiet. Now, if you look at him in class, you may think I’m bonkers for paying for a class where I’M the one singing and dancing and he is more passive. However, he really is just learning and absorbing everything in class. When we play the cds at home or in the car (almost always – the whole family enjoys the music, it’s very good quality!) he sings, does the moves, tells Papa all about the songs and movements. it’s really hilarious. Here’s a little sample video, not the best though:

I can really see and feel how good this is for him, and he loves it. He says Din Dan tutu, which in Alex speak is Ding Dong music whenever we mention the class. He’s always asking to go dance with the babies. He also loves the instruments and other props which he would not have access to at home. The songs are great because you can change them around and adapt them. We’ve used the stick tune to get him to more easily transition to doing things: he sings “hey, hey” and we do “what do you say, let’s all take a bath/eat/go home, etc. today”. Perfect for avoiding end of day meltdowns. In fact, we love it so much, we’ve already registered for Spring term, starting in 2 weeks. Hopefully with all this early exposure, he won’t have the same hang ups as his parents and be convinced he can never be any good at music. And you know what? I think it’s helping me as well!

So really, all I want to say is that I really recommend this programme and if you’re in or around Brussels, there are still a few spots left for Spring term registration. Music is so good for little ones, if you don’t believe me, take a look at this. Plus, it’s good fun and a great way to bond. And no, I’m not getting anything out of saying this – I just really like the programme. 🙂

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