In our third episode, Amanda discusses how music can improve your child’s wellbeing. Singing songs together, banging on drums and waving their hands in the air can help children understand and express their emotions, recall memories and develop self-regulation.
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Fay – Welcome to the Bright Horizons Early Years Podcast. I'm Fay Banks and I'm joined today by Amanda, one of our Early Childhood Specialists. Hi, Amanda. Welcome to the podcast.
Amanda – Hi, Fay!
Fay – It’s lovely to have you with us today. Before we begin, could you tell us a little bit about your role at Bright Horizons and what you do here?
Amanda – Of course. So I'm one of the Early Childhood Specialists for Bright Horizons, and I cover one of the regions in the north of England. I support staff giving them that in-depth knowledge about high quality childcare. So I will go in, support and offer some coaching, guidance and mentoring to all of our managers and nursery teams out there.
Fay – Brilliant. Well, I'm really excited to have you on the podcast today. So could you tell us a bit about your topic?
Amanda – So this has been something that has been really quite significant and had a significant impact within the region. We've been looking at the positive impact of music on children's wellbeing. So, you know, from birth we know that parents love to sing to children. They sing those lullabies. They, you know, and everybody who travels by car, more often than not, has got some music on at the moment.
So, you know, it's how then to develop that joy, that enthusiasm and to engage between an adult and a child. And obviously, we hear so much around self-regulation in the media at the moment. And we like to think about how this then does link to the music aspect.
So self-regulation really starts from those early stages. So when we're thinking about attachment and that emotional bond between our key persons and our children who are entering the nursery, you know, what better way to do it than through the joy of music?
Fay – Absolutely, and so many of us, myself included, love a good sing song in the car if the song's on the radio. So you mentioned there some of the benefits of music to children. Are there any specific activities or techniques that we use in the nursery?
Amanda – So, within all of our nurseries, we have those really regular daily sessions and they're woven into normal routine. So with our babies, you can always hear staff in a rendition of some of the usual favourite rhymes and songs from early years. Now, most of these are the ones that we've either picked up from the National Literacy Trust, because that's a really successful site.
So within all of our nursery rooms, the music is that expression, giving children the time to express their own feelings. We know that children obviously, returning after the pandemic, have had different worries. So again, music has been just a strand that they can let their experiences – and they can use their feelings. So if they are feeling unhappy, they can bang on those drums and they can release that tension and then it’s that skilful practitioner who is close by, who will help them and talk them through it.
So, you know, practitioners then become those co-regulators that we know that young children need to help with that development.
Fay – I love that image of, kind of, a child who is a bit anxious or upset about something, kind of banging on a drum and getting that out in a healthy way. I love it!
Amanda – You know, it goes back to having my own children, and they used to love to sit in the kitchen with the pots and pans and bang with the wooden spoons. And I mean, yes, it was very loud, but it was a great way of them releasing some of their tension and working through some of that.
And then they weren't very musical children, but it allowed them that time to explore and to make those really loud noises.
Fay – It's lovely to imagine children using music in that way, especially because obviously music can make us feel happy or sad or joyful. So, I imagine children are able to use it as a way to show people how they feel if they can't put it into words yet.
Amanda – Music does have that power to evoke such a meaningful and powerful responses. And I think for our children, it's having those resources readily available, and it doesn't need to cost a fortune. We're talking about those objects that they can use. We have singing spoons. We have the singing bowls, the rain shakers, so that children are beginning to listen to tempo, they’re beginning to listen to that pace.
And it will then begin to remind them of events as well. So as they grow older, it will remind them of those experiences, you know, and we want to be able to trigger some emotions so that children recognise their emotions. You know, sometimes it is okay to feel sad. It is okay to feel angry. But actually, our practitioners and our role is to give them those tools to work through that. And that's really what self-regulation is about and how we can use the music to inform that as well.
Fay – Yes, so it's a way for the children to channel that energy into something that then helps them learn. Yeah.
Amanda – Yeah. Some of the nurseries also use the singing spoons, which are wooden spoons, and they've got faces on them. And then the children sing along with the spoons and they can show their feelings upon those as well. So again, it's a way to support children to express themselves through music.
Fay – Yeah, oh I love that and the idea of them having the faces on. It’s another way to help show in imagery and in sound what different emotions are because children, being quite young, can't necessarily put it into words, so they need other ways to communicate that to the adults. And it sounds like it's… I mean, music is a – obviously it can be a solo thing, but it can also be a really social activity as well.
So I suppose in a way that's really good for the children, forming relationships with each other and with the adults as well.
Amanda – You know, and that is at the heart of everything we do to make those social connections for our parents and for our children. And if they can form some friendships for life as well, again, that's another little avenue that we've done it through.
Fay – Yeah, it sounds brilliant. So, talking of the parent partnerships, obviously parents coming into the nursery. What are some of the things that parents can do at home?
Amanda – Yeah. So, you know, we always say with our parents as well, whether it's bath times, mealtimes or even popping into the shops, singing can build a child's brain right from birth. And using the tools to shake, rattle and roll will support even the earliest interests in music. Whether they’re sat in the car, whether they're tapping in their pram, that actually, everything that we do can really support those children.
So, you know, when you're bathing your baby, if you're having those songs and you're singing rhymes and you're doing lots of language and communication with them, absolutely fantastic! Or, you know, when the children are starting to get a little bit older, you can do just like the daily chores. So like doing the laundry hokey cokey – putting the socks in the basket and taking them back out. It all gives those children a purpose.
I know it's going to take a little bit longer, but actually it gives it so much excitement and putting the fun back into real learning and having that enjoyment with your children. You know, like we talked about the Pots and Pans band, you know, amazing! I mean, if you can find some plastic containers that might be a little bit quieter, but tapping out a song with the spoons as you’re making tea and the children are around and about, and supporting children to want to sing those songs.
I always remember when my boys started at playgroup, they sung a song about a turtle, but I never knew what that song was. And now, looking back, I really wish I had asked about it. But I hear it every day in most of ours. It's a little turtle and he’s in the bath – he blows a bubble till it pops.
Fay – Tiny Tim!
Amanda – Now I'm not very good at singing, so I wasn't going to sing it for you there, Fay. But you know, it's about us as practitioners supporting parents to be aware of what we're doing as well. So again, it's paramount, those links with our parents.
Fay – Absolutely. That partnership is really the key thing here, isn't it?
Amanda – Definitely.
Fay – Yeah. Brilliant. Well, it's been really lovely having you on the podcast today and learning a bit more about music and how it can help with early wellbeing. So, thank you for coming along!
Amanda – And thank you, Fay, for inviting me. It's been great speaking to you today.
Fay – It has. And thank you to those of you listening at home. We look forward to seeing you on the next one.