children at play By Michael T

Image by nist6ss via Flickr

“And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” ~ Luke 2:40

This Bible verse has been running through my head and along with a portion of lyrics “Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.  For me, there is a joy in watching children busy with play, with learning, with exploring, at rest. Watching my daughter, now a teen, is still a source of joy.  Maybe I don’t stand & watch her breath while she sleeps like I did when I first brought her home, yet I watch.  I watch her perform, do her homework, and interact with peers.  I watch her cook experimenting with recipes.

What does all this have to do with the “Slow, children at play picture” and with my music therapy business?  A lot.

First, we tend to be a society that works on a schedule that is often packed with activities.  When we slow down and provide them (and ourselves for that matter) time to play, observe, and explore many doors can open.  And, we need to let them be our teachers, too.  Looking at the lyrics of “Teach Your Children” includes the importance of teaching happening both directions – adult teaches child; child teaches adult. For that to happen we have to slow down and allow time.

Second, research is supporting the importance of play in learning.  There is much all of us can learn through play.  Teachers have created wonderful educational tools that are games.  So, play!  Last night, I watched them make a homemade bottle rocket launcher sending bottles high into the sky on “Ask This  Old House”.  The adults were having as much fun as the kids.  Science, plumbing, measuring, turn taking – lots of neat skills were shared.

Next, I grew up with creative play.  I made up songs, put on plays with my siblings for our parents, created art work, we wrote our own rules for games like kickball so it would be fun for the whole family.  Much of that came directly from my parents.  They encouraged us to try our hands in the arts.  They encouraged family games.  I was blessed with a musical family and I am a musical being.  If I had been a dancer or a tennis player, I know they would have supported that.

This is why I chose to offer early childhood music groups. It can be a supportive place for parents to offer these opportunities to their child.  And, I find the family do walk away with a few new songs in their repertoire.  I want children to have permission to try their hand at singing, playing, and moving with music.  I promote social skills like turn taking, greeting others, and sharing.  This is why offering intergenerational groups is so important to me  – so the two groups can learn from each other.

If music groups aren’t an option, consider adding songs as part of family events,  My daughter accuses me of having a song for every topic.  That’s only partially correct, but I have always added songs to activities.  Whether its “Tip Toe Through the Tulips” while planting bulbs, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road” during a odiferous trip, I find it adds a little levity.  When she was little, it often served as a cue for what we were doing or a time-keeper for quickly completing a task (like picking up toys).  Whether you sing or play a recording, this is a simple way to add a little playfulness and music to your life.

Children learn through play, observation and exploring.  We need to provide them permission, space, and safe opportunity to be children.  Children don’t need to have every moment of every day scheduled.  We need to slow down and let the children play.  And, through their play, we hope they grow and become strong teaching us along the way.

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