Today, we’re thinking about how and why music-based activities can play such an important role in developing social skills in children.
Surely any group based activity has the potential to help with the development of social skills? So, what makes MUSIC-based activities so effective?
Music-based activities for children are incredibly sensory rich. But, one of things that sets music apart, is its ability to connect with our emotions. When we listen to music, it provokes an emotional response. This means that we can use music-based activities with children to help them identify their emotions.
For example, listening to Rimsky Korsakov’s orchestral classic, “Flight of the Bumblebee”, may make the children feel agitated, like a busy little bee. Having listened to the music and identified how they feel by dramatising their response, we can then encourage them to verbalise the emotion … giving them the vocabulary to express themselves.
We can then go one step further and use music-based activities to give the children tools that they can use, to understand and regulate their emotions and respond accordingly.
An excellent example of this in the Wriggle and Rhyme Pre-Schoolers programme, is ROCKY the RHINO.
We first met ROCKY, when we took an imaginary trip up to the Kruger National Park in our “BIG 5” programme. It turned out that ROCKY struggles to regulate his anger. When he feels cross or threatened, he charges!
We use our experience with ROCKY to teach the children techniques to manage conflict, and regulate reactive responses.
ROCKY is not only extremely popular with the children, but “Charge like a Rhino” has become one of our most popular songs.
You can listen to it here … (and buy / download it from the BUSH BABIES story here – www.wriggleandrhyme.co.za/our-music)
Above: These gorgeous boys are showing off their ROCKY the RHINO horns while singing “Charge like a Rhino”
SHARING and TEAMWORK
Sharing is not something that comes naturally to children. It’s a skill that has to be taught and modelled.
Music-based activities give us a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of sharing and working together.
In our toddler programmes, we start to gently encourage sharing. This is helped by the fact that our groups remain small, making it less overwhelming for both carers and little ones.
However, once we progress into the Wriggle and Rhyme Pre-Schoolers programme, we can really build on this skill.
In our programme, MUSICAL UBUNTU, we use a very wide variety to instruments to model the importance of individuality as well as team work.
Music gives us a natural advantage, because musical instruments are beautiful on their own, but the sound is even more beautiful when combined with complementary sounds from other instruments.
The subtle cues in any piece of music – the melody and harmonies, the mix of instruments, the differences in timbre, tempo and dynamics – all help children to start picking up on the subtle cues of expression. These cues can help them, both in self-expression, but also begin to grow an ability to read social cues from those around them.
SELF-REGULATION and FOLLOWING A LEADER
Finally, one of the aspects of our music-based group activities is encouraging children to work with their leader.
In our baby and toddler groups, this starts by following simple instructions – perhaps to play faster or slower as a group.
However, as the children grow, we encourage more complex elements of following a leader for the greater good of the group. This encourages children to self-regulate – in other words, work together with the group, rather than doing their own thing.
This is a vital part of building social skills and learning to co-operate with others.
In summary …
There’s so much more that I could say about the effects of MUSIC on building SOCIAL SKILLS in children. This blog has only scratched the surface!
However, I hope that we will have the opportunity to welcome you and your child/ren to our baby, toddler or pre-schooler music programmes. Then, you can witness for yourself, just how effective music can be in this area of childhood development!