“What can I do to make this
less mind numbing more fun?”
A question I ask myself multiple times a day. I often have a hard time summoning my inner Mary Poppins and finding the element of fun in jobs that must be done. Luckily there is one thing I can do to make almost any task better: Add music.
Running. Cleaning. Teaching. Reading. Cooking. All these are made a billion times better by turning up the tunes. Suddenly I go from workin’ to workin’ it.
I’m not a musician or a dancer (I can’t even clap on the beat), but I’ve always loved music. As a child I sang loud enough to garner comments at church and school. Musicals top my movie favorites list (because Newsies). Before I could drive I was an avid car dancer. No, I’m not a musician, but I am a music enthusiast.
Lucky for me I married someone who is not only an appreciator of music, but is actually a musician. My husband plays multiple instruments, sings, and generally exudes music from his very being from drumming on tables to endlessly humming tunes. Thanks to our combined genes, our kids were destined to feel the beat. While pregnant, my kids used to kick like crazy when they heard a song. The first night in the hospital after the twins were born, we turned out the lights and they immediately began singing to each other, sounding like the whales in Free Willy. They kicked and clapped in rhythm to each other as infants, and have progressed now to harmonizing with the radio and each other. Our house is always full of music in one way or another.
In the Background
I embrace having music on in the house almost all the time. I prefer it to the noise of the television while we play, cook, clean etc. The boys got used to having “dance parties” when they were still just bopping along in their Bumbos. In the infant stage there was even a separate playlist we used at nighttime during our bedtime routine. As our kids have grown up, we have branched out. These days we are mostly Pandora junkies with stations for musicals, oldies, pop, etc. The boys love a little bit of everything, and they are as likely to identify a Michael Jackson song as they are to request Bon Jovi or Bach. And, I won’t lie, my heart skipped a beat a few weeks ago when one of my boys asked “Mommy, can we listen to La La Land?”
On the Television
There’s not a lot of screen time around our house, but what we do watch is rich in music. From a very young age our kids were more entranced with a show if it had lots of songs. Little Einsteins and Fresh Beat Band were favorites, as well as some of the more musical episodes of Sesame Street. We also began introducing them to musicals early on. My older two watched White Christmas for the first time at the ripe old age of 15 months. We had it DVR-ed, and we watched the musical numbers over and over again. They loved it then, and we have since shown them many old favorites from Annie to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The best part is when we add the soundtracks to our listening line-ups, and they recognize, sing, and dance along.
In the Playroom
Do you have a musical instrument section of your playroom? We do. There are drums, recorders, train whistles, triangles, tambourines, maracas, guitars, and more. We recently got to the point where I had to separate our instrument toys into two separate bins: Woodwind and percussion (you know you’re married to a band nerd when . . .). The guitars stay propped up against the wall in easy reach so they can join in when Daddy or Granddaddy start to play. If I had a nickel for every parade, band performance, or birthday serenade my kids have put on over the past few years, I would be able to pay for all the music lessons that are no doubt in our future. While it’s mostly just play, they show an aptitude for beats and pitch that impresses me, mainly because they have already surpassed my own abilities.
On the Schedule
When our twins began drawing musical notes on scratch paper and going to the piano to “play” the song they wrote, I knew it might be time to look into actual lessons. They are only five and not in kindergarten yet, but I started looking around. Eventually I found someone who gave lessons in her home and the first one was free. Perfect. We tried it out, and I warned the teacher in advance that I thought they may be a little young, but I wanted to give it a try. She agreed to give me an honest assessment. At the end of 20 minutes, she looked at me and said, “Wow. They are going to be JUST fine.” Since then my older two have gone to weekly piano lessons and now point out notes in hymn books and plunk out real songs on our piano. My youngest is too young to take, but because he waits in the next room during lessons he absorbs almost as much as his older brothers.
Luckily, all this music only enhances our lives. It doesn’t take much research to find out that music enhances brain development, even in utero. There are links with language skills and reading ability and it helps improve your memory. I believe in it so much that I play music in my preschool class constantly. My little threes and fours focus much better with the music on, and I know it’s helping their cognitive development at the same time. Besides, who doesn’t need a brain break every now and then to dance around the room?
My kids are some of those people who carry music inside of them. They dance when they talk, hum while they play, and listen to the music in the background of restaurants. Part of my job as a parent is to embrace that gift and enhance it. I know that one of the greatest gifts we are giving our children is growing up with music. Music makes our house a happier home.
Do you have music in your house?