Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Let the music play

I was watching the children (ages 3 to 7) running around the yard as I was setting up the food to be barbecued. A young man, who is getting married in a few months came over and said, “Wow, I thought that children don’t know how to play anymore. I thought that they were all tied to their screens, and don’t know how to amuse themselves.  I am amazed that these children are playing.”

I stopped what I was doing and watched for a while, the children were playing a variation of hide and seek and tag. They looked like they were having a good time.

A while later, I went into the house and heard a form of music coming from the front room. Many of our guests were musicians and there were a number of guitars, banjos and bongo drums in the living room, awaiting the adults to start a jam session. While the children decided to create their own music and told me with excitement that they had formed a band. I asked them to play a song and they did, it was full of excitement and noise, and there was not one note of harmony but they were very serious and shrieked with delight when I and the other adults applauded.

Children of all ages love music, and the music speaks to all of us. A 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that musical experiences in childhood can actually accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills. No great melodies or harmonies were created that day, but the sounds that were created came from the heart. These children played and sang and they appeared to enjoy playing and singing just to be playing and singing. They aren’t self-conscious about their ability and most are eager to let their music roar. As we watched we could see that they were trying very hard to use rhythms with a definite beat.

If adults get out of the way, children will play, they will take advantage of the things in their surroundings and figure out what to do and they will make up games. Picking up an instrument can also help children break out of their social shell. The children did not know each other and I sensed that by picking up and becoming involved in creating a musical group or ensemble, they were learning important life skills. I watched as a leader emerged, and how they helped each other. They were learning to relate to others, how to work as a team and appreciate the rewards that come from working together, and the development of leadership skills and discipline.

The children enjoyed themselves, and while some of the adults were amazed that the children could play without a screen, proud parents watched and listened to the joy of the music created in the moment by their children.

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