Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting KS NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
The family way
7:00am Saturday 29th September 2012 in Lifestyle
As a new campaign urges parents to ensure children have fun with music, experts explain how music helps child development, and how just encouraging kids to make sounds and sing will keep them happy and help them learn.
By Lisa Salmon
From a very early age, children love both listening to and making music - although the sounds they create are often far from tuneful.
However, whatever their 'music' sounds like, not only does it make children happy, it also helps them develop and learn, says a new report.
But with Government funding for music in schools being slashed from £82.5 million a year to just £60 million, it's more important than ever for parents to encourage musical creativity at home, says Dr Barbie Clarke, a child social psychologist who has just written the report into the educational, social and therapeutic benefits of music for children.
"Encouraging children to sing, to pick up anything that's lying around to help to make sound and rhythm, and to join in family events in a musical way will help your child to connect socially, improve their learning, and can also be therapeutic," says Clarke, who wrote the report as part of the new Persil Get Messy With Music campaign.
"Above all, music should be fun and enjoyable - not something that's forced or too formal," she stresses.
The report found that children increase their creative development just as much by messing around and having fun with music as they do from hours of serious practice.
It also showed that it's beneficial for a child's creative development to make loud noise, whether that's screeching on a violin or banging on a saucepan.
Clarke says children can communicate through making sounds - banging on a homemade drum or shaking a rattle - and if they simply sway to musical sounds, for example, there will probably be a response from the people around them, such as clapping or laughter.
"By getting a response from the adults in their lives, children learn that they can create pleasure, prompt a response, and become an entertainer," explains Clarke.
"By doing so they're able to build confidence and self-esteem."
By taking part in music, children also learn important non-verbal communication skills such as taking turns, making eye contact, anticipating the actions of others, listening and concentrating, and relating to others, says Clarke.
Music is also thought to have educational benefits, as research suggests listening to music affects the function of the brain, and learning to play a musical instrument can improve certain skills.
"The ability to remember through playing music, hearing rhythms and making sounds can help to improve the way a child learns - and in so doing, language and literacy improves," says Clarke.
She explains that music also helps the brain to think systematically and logically, and there appears to be a link between learning music and being skilled at learning maths, science and engineering.
"Research has shown that if children have music in their lives - either by learning to play a musical instrument, learning to sing in a choir, or learning to recognise music - it can help them to improve academically," she stresses.
Music also has therapeutic benefits, and music therapy can help children who've experienced emotional or physical trauma to express how they feel without words.
"Music plays an important role in our everyday lives," Clarke emphasises.
"It stirs a natural rhythm in children and creates a fun and enjoyable environment that prompts a sense of community and friendship.
"Most importantly, it can help those who find it difficult to make friends, or communicate, to find expression and connect with others."
The Persil Get Messy with Music campaign is fronted by singer and mum-of-three Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose own mum Janet Ellis is a former Blue Peter presenter.
Ellis-Bextor has helped put together some tips for parents to get involved in making music and sounds with younger children, and she suggests making musical instruments from household items, creating a stage in the back garden, or making up rhythms and lyrics to your own songs.
The whole family dressing up and performing on the makeshift stage to recreate favourite bands is another idea which will help develop a child's imagination and encourage social interaction.
"Creativity and a love of music were passed on to me by my parents," says Ellis-Bextor, "and I'm doing the same with my own kids.
"To me, music is all about having fun and getting stuck in, which is why I'm encouraging families across the country to get involved with music at home."
Ask the expert
Q: "I've just had a baby and want to look after her while looking after the environment at the same time. What sort of things should I do?"
A: Pippa Hough, co-ordinator of Green Babies at London Science Museum, says: "There are many big and little changes you can make to your family's lifestyle to help reduce the environmental impact of bringing a new person into the world.
"For starters, try to get as much of the baby furniture, clothes and other paraphernalia second-hand. A large proportion of a product's impact on the environment happens during manufacture. By extending the life of a cot, buggy or babygrow, you've instantly prevented all the waste products produced when making a new one.
"Breast is best for many health reasons, but it's also the most eco-friendly food you can give your baby. Unlike formula milk, it doesn't need to be processed, packaged or transported. When it's time to switch to solids, try to stick to seasonal fruit and vegetables as they're less likely to have been grown in energy-intensive greenhouses.
"One of the best things you can do is create eco-conscious offspring. Talk to your kids from a young age about the importance of a low-carbon lifestyle and explain your reasoning. They'll grow up to follow your example and pass the message on to their own babies.
"If you'd like to find out more, come along to the Science Museum's Green Babies event, where environmental experts - who are parents themselves - will be talking about the issues around green parenting."
:: Green Babies is at the Science Museum's Dana Centre, London, on September 27. For more information, visit www.danacentre.org.uk/events/2012/09/27/665
Mini Scraperfoil Gold Kit
Kids simply scrape the foil off printed boards to create pictures, including a horse and an elephant. The kit comes with practice and printed scraperfoil boards, a scraper tool and instructions, and is suitable for age eight plus, £1.49. Stockist details available from www.reeves-art.com
Buttonbag Elephant First Sewing Kit
This set contains colourful pre-cut shapes with pre-punched holes, which make it easy to sew with the enclosed plastic safety sewing needle and embroidery thread. Suitable for four years plus, £12, available from www.buttonbag.co.uk
Seedling Design Your Own Sword Kit
Kids can be very unique knights by painting their own sword in this kit, which contains a wooden sword, acrylic paints, a paint brush and instructions. Suitable for age three plus, £15.99, available from www.kindtoys.co.uk