Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Family Togetherness Through Music

Life can get pretty busy. As parents we are always zipping and zooming about doing our best to keep our homes running smooth and our little (or not so little) ones happy and healthy. With all the hustle and bustle, it is extra important that we slow down and take the time to be in the now as a family.Spending quality time together helps to create a strong and positive bond and can be filled with fun.

With three children in our house, ranging from 20 months to 7 1/2 years old, it was hard – at first – to find a family time activity that each one of us could be a part of. Then we started “Family Song Time”.

Family song time is all about bringing a joyful noise into your home. The only hard and fast rules are that everyone be involved and everyone have a good time. Each of us picks out the instrument that calls to us out of the musical instrument basket. Once everyone has their instrument it’s time to rock out! It doesn’t matter who starts playing first. Sometimes we let dad create the beat on his Djembe and we each add our own piece to his beautifully complex rhythms. A fun game is rhythm follow the leader.

For this game we let the little one set the pace. He is a lover of beats and can hold a rhythm like a champ. Each of us adds our little twist; sometimes a funky toot on the horns, a jazzy strum on the guitar, or playful words repeated from parent to child (or child to parent) in silly or sweet tones to our combined musical instrument offering. If it feels right, it can be fun to create a family theme song by making up one silly verse about each family member. Here is a fun little ditty I created for my little crew…

Silly Willy Monkeys 
I love my Loki; he’s a silly willy monkey. He likes to eat chocolate sauce on his yummy artichokie. I love my Bodhi; he’s a super duper monkey. He can roar like a dragon but blows bubbles instead of smokey. I love my Azure she’s a precious funny monkey. She wears a rainbow as a hat so she will always be lucky. I am a lucky monkey mom. I love my silly willy monkeys.
Making it Happen… *For the little ones (2 and under) maracas, tambourines, hand drums, or just about any rhythm instrument is great. *For the preschool/ kindergarten group (3-5 years) kazoos, pentatonic harps, pianos/ electric keyboards, and xylophones are excellent choices. These instruments make beautiful tones without the need for any major skill and are more challenging and satisfying to the growing abilities of this age group. *For older children (6 and up) let them grab a hold of more complex instruments. Stringed instruments, such as guitars and ukuleles, can be plucked or strummed very creatively. Wind instruments such as wooden flutes are also wonderful for creating more complex sounds. If your child is taking music lessons, this is a wonderful opportunity for them to practice improvising with a group. *For us parents the sky is the limit! It can be super satisfying to sit and help the baby or the youngest in the room; but don’t be afraid to break away and grab an instrument of your own. If you plan to create fun and zany lyrics for the song, it can be your job to write the words down as they spontaneously are thrown into the “music soup” pot.
If your family is constantly on the move, worry not. Family song time doesn’t need to be long or strictly scheduled. It doesn’t even have to be at home. You can keep a container of simple instruments in the car and create sweet music together while on the way to practices or errands. Making songs in the car beats channel surfing the radio or digging through CD’s/ Mp3’s trying to find music everyone agrees on. If you don’t have travel instruments then it’s time to get creative. Dry beans sealed into toilet paper rolls, makes a mini rain stick or maraca. You can even use snacks as instruments. Shake that granola or tap a beat on the Tiffin; and when you’re done, your music becomes your meal. Just a note on safety, if your little one is in the flinging stage of life, keep a soft rattle in the car so maracas aren’t whizzing by your ears as you drive. Remember, the most important part about family song time is that you all have fun together. Let your heart be your guide.

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