Finding Joy in Music

Today’s blog post is submitted by our summer contributor, Kara Olsen-Becerra.

Cultures all around the world listen to and create music. Music has always been an important part of culture and humanity. It has been known throughout centuries to have an effect on mood. Although each culture may have its’ own way of appreciating or making music, it is a beautiful thing to know that music is something that unites and creates community throughout the world.

Music is something that was an important part of my childhood, and it continues to play an important role in my life now as an adult. I come from musical parents, and they instilled a love of music in each of their children. Although my siblings and I may have some different tastes and preferences in music as well as varying ability levels in creating music, we all love music and appreciate the effect it has in our lives.

I grew up learning to sing and harmonize with my siblings, but I never realized that when I became a mother, I would use music as a parenting tool to help create familial harmony and unity. Because music can influence our mood, we as parents can use it to help create a peaceful or happy atmosphere in our homes.

There is a reason that we play and sing lullabies to babies and young children. The repetitive patterns within lullabies can have a great calming nature, which ideally leads to sleepy babies. I have also used music with a faster tempo to help lift spirits at my house. When one or more person wakes up on the wrong side of the bed at my house, I like to bust out some Aretha Franklin or other music that is fun to dance to. I have witnessed the small miracle of seeing my children transform from whining and frowns to dancing and fun within minutes. On the other hand, there have been times when my house has felt too chaotic and loud(sometimes created by sibling quarrels). In a desperate attempt to calm the wild energy, I will choose more mellow music to play in my house.

Although my attempts to help create a mood or feeling with music don’t work 100% of the time (it is still possible for kids to be doing karate moves or fighting with Enya in the background), I am amazed at how often it does help. For parents who may not feel musically inclined, the good news is that you don’t have to be a musician to instill a love for music in your children. Here are a few tips for using music to help create harmony and happiness in your home, even if you claim to have no musical ability:

  1. Sing to your child from an early age on. Even if you think you are a horrible singer, you can be a rock star to your child. Singing can promote bonding and fun times as a family.
  2. Music is a great way to be silly and have fun with your kids. It is also good for their development. Singing songs that create build up and excitement like “This Little Piggy” are great for development. Not only can you have fun watching an older or baby or toddler’s face light up when he/she knows that she is about to be tickled, but you can also feel good knowing that you are helping him learn how to anticipate and learn the song sequence.
  3. There is a lot of fun children’s music out there now. It is true that there is a lot of annoying children’s music, but there is also a lot of good stuff out there too. If you are looking for musicians that both you and your children will enjoy, try Elizabeth Mitchell, Frances England, or the “Curious George” soundtrack by Jack Johnson. Many libraries will have a children’s music area with music from these artists and many more.
  4. Don’t feel like you can only play children’s music. It is wonderful to expose children to many types of appropriate music! While you listen to music together, ask your child how the different songs make them feel and what they specifically like or dislike about the music.
  5. Spontaneous dance parties are one of my greatest joys in parenthood. I am assuming that there will be a day not too far in the future when my dance moves may embarrass my children, so I say that while they still are too young to know how dorky my dance moves may actually be, we will dance!
  6. When you are helping your children with their homework, you can use music as a way to help them learn and memorize. There is a reason we sing our ABC’s instead of simply saying them. Music can help children learn and grow! When my oldest daughter was really resisting doing her reading homework, I decided to mix it up, and we sang together with the lyrics in front of us to follow along to.
  7. We started a family tradition at the birth of each of our children where we dedicated a song to each child. All 3 of my children delight in the fact that they have their very own song dedicated to them. Even my two year old lights up and says, “This is my song mama” when her song comes on in the car.
  8. Use music as a tool to help create different moods and energy in your home. Give it a try and see how it works for your family!

If you want more information on music and mood, check out this article from the American Academy of Pediatrics: Music and Mood

Kara Olsen-Becerra loves working with children and families. She taught the Live and Learn with Your Baby classes in Corvallis for 6 years, and she is currently working as a nutrition educator with the Linus Pauling Institute-Healthy Youth Program. She loves being a part of this great community, and she loves being silly and playing with her husband and three young children.

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