One of the first musical traits many easily pick up is a beat; that repeated, regular pulse that lies at the foundation of any composition. But it isn't just a trait needed to learn music. It's a trait needed to develop the whole person.
It can begin with a gentle rocking whilst snuggling up to hear your heartbeat, the patting on the back, and the steady speech in your voice. Our young children experience the pattern of things to come from these comforting offerings we deliver as parents. They then take this to explore on their own with repeated gurglings, kicking legs and outstretched arms.
As a toddler, they gradually find their own steady beat to co-ordinate their walking, bouncing and clapping their hands. They are employing a whole collection of senses by using beat. It's absorbed through listening, repeated back in speaking, seen and felt through movement, and reflected in their thinking ... yes, thinking! Those neurons are firing at regular intervals, making the thought pathways stronger each time, so that complex connections become easier and easier through habit.
The element of beat can be so basic, yet it's so important, especially in those early developmental years of a child. So, how can we help ensure that it isn't neglected? There are LOTS of ways families can all engage in fun activities together. Here are a few ideas to get you started, but do let me know if you can add to the list in your comments below!
- Put on the music and move! Who doesn't listen to music some time during their day? Get up and dance together, or bounce baby on your lap so they can feel the beat. If your child is walking, make up a dance routine using some other movements such as marching, patting knees or clapping hands. Cuddle and sway to the beat of a slower song before nap time; this is a lovely way to establish a bedtime routine.
- Pull out the picture books. Reading nursery rhymes and other simple poems lets children hear and learn the pattern of beat in our language.
- Set up a kitchen band! Let your child experiment with the sounds of different utensils on pots and containers you already have in the house. It's also easy to make your own shakers by filling small bottles with rice, beans or pasta. Have a regular session of playing along to the music together.
These ideas are fun and easy, helping you bond with your child whilst also helping them developmentally. Kindermusik classes can also provide you with opportunities to share these experiences with other families, whilst also providing you with access to music and activity ideas.