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October 25, 2018

Long before babies can walk or talk, they show an appreciation for music. It's also a great way to encourage numeracy, literacy and bonding

Words Jo Hood from Mainly Music

What starts as a smile turns into a giggle and becomes laughter. You hear it often. You see it often. A child and a mother, enjoying the moment, finding a connection. This often happens at mainly music. Why? The music, the movement, the props, the focus on parent and child interaction is all part of what a mainly music session is all about.

Each week, families with young children enter with anticipation. For mum, dad or carer, this is a chance to connect, to bond, to enjoy time with their child and be with their child. ‘Being with’ a child is a necessary part of growing up. The Brainwave Trust reminds us of the outcomes of development and growth when we value the importance of the relationships with our children. In their article, ‘Love and Limits’, Keryn O’Neill reports that parent and child relationships affect emotional, social and intellectual development; learning and academic achievement; knowing the difference between right and wrong and how to control aggression, leading to resilience to later stress, and improved mental health in adulthood.

It might be difficult to comprehend that embedded within a fun 30-minute, facilitated music session, input into the parent and child relationship can be enhanced. But along with the connections are also a myriad of developmental advances, too.

Start with the delight of a child who sees their parent peek under the parachute or lycra panel, calling their name, when the children have been pretending to be deep down underground in ‘the worm’. After wiggling and jiggling, smiles of joy can be seen as parents pull up the fabric and sing, “It’s so-and-so,” calling out their child’s name. 

You can also do this at home with a cot sheet or wrap, covering your face and playing peek-a-boo. Your child’s joy is apparent when they lock eyes with you and appreciate the surprise and subsequent engagement. 

Physical development

Songs at mainly music stretch children’s developmental capabilities, providing a chance for left and right brain neurological growth and muscle capacity. Songs that encourage movement build into your child’s development as they require a cross patterning and gross motor skill response, such as ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’. As children swing their arms and march (cross patterning) while moving around (gross motor skills), they’ll learn high, low and halfway. These positions are important when a child is learning the alphabet.  

Children need opportunity to develop physical skills (swiping the screen of a device does not contribute to this learning). Literacy and numeracy skills will develop without electronic input. Using songs that come to mind from your childhood is enough.

Sing the word 

The tune of  ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ has many variations. The song has a clear beginning, middle and end, with the beginning and end having the same musical phrase. The notes are within a child’s vocal range and there is a logical progression of sounds. This song makes it easy for a child to anticipate ‘what’s next’ and provides a framework for response.

Don’t feel self-conscious about singing – your child can’t discern whether you are Beyonce or Kiri Te Kanawa. Language and development opportunities are the start of learning that occurs from your dolce sound. 

Play classical music, dance with your child and talk through your actions. Introduce movement to reinforce learning. Move to the tempo; tip toe, stomp your feet and respond to the speed and sounds. All the while, talk to your baby or child about your activity together.

Perseverance rocks 

At mainly music, some songs and rhymes  involve props. Sometimes those props are given to everyone. Other times, props are distributed to children who come to the front. Children loathe being left out. The goal is to develop a team player. Persevere in the process of teaching your child. Describe the activity happening. Help your child to appreciate the moment, reminding them that turn-taking is good. And when your child is selected, rather than take photos, make eye contact and smile.  


While your child is at home, play music (rather than television background noise) as they play. Create an atmosphere of peace and joy, you'll find their playtime is enhanced as a result. 

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