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An excerpt from GymbaROO-KindyROO’s First Steps magazine.
Instinctively as parents we love to bounce and move to the beat with our children. All sorts of music from chants to nursery rhymes and from classical to the latest hit tunes will inspire us to move to the beat with our babies and young children. Science is now catching up to what we at GymbaROO-KindyROO and many parents have known for generations – it’s simply not enough to just hear the beat. Researchers in Canada at McMaster University found that: “Hearing the beat alone was not sufficient to form long term neural pathways.” Trainor and Phillips-Silver, psychologists who studied how babies perceive music, found that movement was the key factor in helping wire the brain to hear rhythm. Trainor says: “Our interpretation of sound is affected not only by our auditory system but by the input from other senses as well.”
There are many benefits to your child developing a good sense of rhythm. This article written for GymbaROO-KindyROO by Dr Tessa Grigg of Tessarose Productions, focuses on some of the social benefits your child will gain by learning to ‘keep the beat’. Dr Tessa produces and sings many of the gorgeous songs you hear at GymbaROO and KindyROO and throughout our Active Babies Smart Kids online series. Enjoy and let’s see you all up dancing and grooving with your children to the beat!
A baby’s first sound is the rhythmic sound of the mother’s heart beating. For many children in the past, that beat was continued after they were born through the sounds of their family going about their daily chores, grinding, milling, sweeping, the live music they played, drums, instruments and the dances they danced.
Today, western babies hear their mother’s heart beat in utero, however, after they are born when it comes to beats, they are more likely to hear mechanical noises, commercial radio and songs on iTunes. Very few families sit around at night playing live music, dancing and singing. If there is music in the house it will most likely come from a computer, electronic device or radio.
Babies and growing children need to develop a strong sense of the beat. Because the way we live our lives has changed from those earlier times when a beat was supplied by a variety of sources, we need to make some adjustments so that our children have opportunities to learn to keep the beat. This is one of the many reasons we include so many rhythm and music activities at GymbaROO and KindyROO.
How does being able to keep the beat help a child socially?
Many physical activities have a beat – walking, jumping, running, hopping, skipping, kicking and so on. Mastering these skills enables your child to play more sophisticated games with other children, which gives them opportunities to make friends, which in turn encourages them to develop social skills and increases their enjoyment of life. All this, partly as a result of being able to keep the beat! It all sounds quite simplistic, but think about the children that you grew up with who found sport a real challenge. Generally they were not included in the ‘lunch-time’ games, they were the last to be picked for teams and their self-image took a real battering.
For many of these children there may have been a range of issues however, if you test a group of children who are challenged by sport you will find that many of them cannot keep the beat.
If a child learns to keep the beat, he or she then also develops the skill to be able to follow a rhythmic pattern. This follows quite naturally – you do not need to teach the rhythm, they can just do it.
So what can we do for children to help them learn to keep the beat?
Ever found yourself standing somewhere swaying from side to side without your baby? If so, this indicates that you have naturally and instinctively been keeping the beat with your little one. You have also, more than likely, settled your baby from time to time by patting her back. These are good things!
- Whenever you are listening to music gently pat your child’s body, bounce or dance with her in time to the music (just keep the beat). She will thoroughly enjoy a good waltz, jive or foxtrot. Variety is the key. Different types of music have different beats.
- Choose music where there is a strong beat, the type of music that makes you want to tap your toes.
- Use instruments such as maracas, rhythm sticks or bells and help your baby to feel the beat.
- Sing songs and nursery rhymes to your baby. Make up the words if you don’t know them. There is nothing nicer for a child than the sweet sound of a mother or father singing. Don’t worry if you don’t think you can sing, the vibration of love for your child that is passed on is as important as the sound of your voice! This is also great for language development.
- Find hundreds of ideas, songs and rhythm games to do with your baby at your local BabyROO centre and in GymbaROO-KindyROO’s online series of baby classes here: Active Babies Smart Kids
- Still keep the beat at every opportunity, continuing on with all the baby activities above, however encourage some independence with the use of instruments. Let your child hold the sticks and try tapping together. With a good range of experience many children will be able to keep the beat at this age some of the time, progressing eventually to all of the time.
Remember to keep it fun. If children are enjoying an activity, learning will come more easily. Music provides so many opportunities for learning. Enjoy!!
Join in with this gorgeous song from GymbaROO-KindyROO’s online series and help your little one learn to keep the beat. Listen to Dr Jane Williams talk on some of the other benefits of rhythm!
Dr Tessa Grigg (B.Ed, Dip Tch (Primary) Dip Tch (ECE)) is a qualified educator and professional musician who is focused on educating through music She is the co-founder of Tessarose Productions a company specialising in pre-school music.
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