Some Notes About the Wonderful Musical Observer
There are a few threads that seem to travel between our classes and through family experiences both in and outside of the classroom, as related to music learning, that I felt would be well served addressed in this, our family friendly blog!
This month I thought I would discuss this topic, so close to my heart.
The beauty of observation.
I have seen it in every class so far, and I expect to see it throughout my career. Not only have I seen it, but I was told about it by teachers and instructors, and fellow directors, to watch for it and to embrace it. To understand it. The observant child. The children in class who are in a phase in their development, or in their day, or week, where they would rather sit with Mom or Dad and watch what is happening around them than to participate actively. They want to cuddle and sometimes hide in their grown ups arms...listen but not sing, watch but not shake, stand but not dance. Time after time this has and will happen and it will always be OKAY! I know that for me, as a child and an adult, I need this kind of inward,
observing time to deeply learn. And that when I am accepted in that
need is when I did and can truly flourish. I'm sure for many of you it rings familiar as well. What a gift we give ourselves and our children when we make space for all ways of showing up!
I want you to know that I know that your child will observe and absorb in class...sometimes very quietly, sometimes with their face pressed into you, sometimes timidly sitting and intently watching. They will soak it all in, all the learning, all the musical richness, and they will get home, and there they will EXPRESS! At home they will sing and dance and play...loudly even! Eventually they will sing songs from class, show rhythm in their bodies, and sometimes even 'teach a class' to their stuffies. This is hard work, all this observing and noting and listening! There are vital cognitive pathways being built just by the act of observation!
It is absolutely acceptable, and expected for children under five to observe. There are phases in a child's development where what they really need to learn IS to watch, IS to listen, IS to sit still and record. Because children then, once they are in a mode of expression (later in the day, week, year) take all of that information and make sense of it and teach themselves about it through play!
So parents, grown-ups, grandparents...what can you do? You can join me in accepting and honoring your child's way (which you already do!) and you can join me in music making, and providing a model for your child to observe! Your child is most especially observing YOU in class. They are taking their cues of how to interact with music, how to feel about music, first and foremost, from YOU! What an amazing opportunity this is. To show your child your love of music, your participation with community and with fun, your joy and modeling of social interactive behavior. Your booty shakin', music makin', gettin down with the tunes, fun loving self! To let your child know that you know she/he's watching, and that you are there to be a model of play, learning, and fun for your child to, when they are ready, mirror and learn from.
So keep on, amazing, brave, fun grown-ups! Know you are supported in class, and know you are doing a great job when you just join in, create a safe environment of learning and expression with me and Mia and Jenny!! And yup..you guessed it...we'll make music together!
The Importance of Mirroring and Modeling in Music Education
In order to participate actively and confidently in music as an adult, your child needs years of exposure to music as a young child, and opportunities to experiment with music. Eventually, she or he will acquire the ability to sing in tune and keep accurate rhythm in the body. This milestone is called Basic Music Competence (or BMC). At Music Together, we believe it is every child's birthright to achieve this music development milestone. One of the ways that we can encourage this development is through mirroring and modeling.' – from Music Together materials
Let’s explore mirroring. Recent studies have shown that ‘Mirror Neurons’ are responsible for a baby's ability to mimic actions and expressions BEFORE they are ‘learned’. Mirror neurons ‘light up’ as though the observer were the one acting, thereby developing neural pathways simply through the act of observation. For example, have you ever watched someone do something like eat, or put on lipstick, and found yourself making an ‘empathetic’ face? Mirror neurons are the inward version of this. So if a baby is watching someone tap their left foot, their mirror neurons will ‘light’ the left foot tapping signal in the brain, developing that ability.
As you provide a model for your child to mirror, you are actively lighting up areas of the brain that can aid not only in musical development, but also in language abilities and ‘theory of mind’ skills. Modeling clear movement, expressive gestures, and with expressive voice allows your child to observe and fire up their hugely beneficial mirror neurons. As you mirror back to your child their attempts at tones, rhythms, and movement, you validate their actions and thereby encourage their exploration and play. And as we know, children teach themselves through play!!
Hope to make some music with you and your little ones soon!