Sing Love Me

Keen eyed readers may realise that this is not a new blog post – I used to blog regularly when my boys were young then stopped as they objected to being identifiable.  But, this was one of the most popular blog posts I ever wrote and to be honest it is as valid today as it was back in 2011 and when I thought about rewriting it, it felt a bit like reinventing the wheel

Jellybeans HQ has not been it’s usual noisy, happy place recently.  Our youngest son is poorly with earache.  He has been suffering since thursday when we went swimming and he got ‘water in his ear’.  We’ve been giving him the painkillers every two hours for what feels like years already and the nights have been awful for all of us – bringing back all those memories of having a small baby/toddler in the house who wouldn’t sleep and as he is now 8, these are not memories we like revisiting very much!  We’ve been to see the emergency Doctor but nothing is helping and every time he accidentally touches his ear, he demonstrates that he has inherited his mother’s ability to ‘belt it out’.

However, as I ran his bath last night, he crawled onto my lap and I instinctively gently began rocking him from side to side.  He smiled and snuggled in closer, then I heard the words, I haven’t heard for a long time, “sing love me mummy”.   I started singing ‘his’ song and I felt his whole body relax.

Singing to your baby and child is a natural, organic process, one which we, probably instinctively, remember from our own childhood.  There in no right or wrong way to do it.  As I always say in classes at Jellybeans Music, your baby/child thinks your voice is the most wonderful sound in the world because it is you, the person who loves them.  Here are some of my favourite ways I’ve used music at home with my boys from babyhood onwards.

  • Choose a song which will become your ‘special’ song to use in times of stress.  Whenever the boys were ill as babies or fell over, comforting or just felt sad, I sang ‘their’ song.  Having 3 children meant I had to think of 3 different songs but it was worth it as each child knew it was a special thing just between us.  It doesn’t have to be a lullaby but ideally should be gentle and soothing in feel and a song which you feel happy to croon in public if necessary.  It doesn’t even need to have words.  It can be soothing just hearing repetitive notes. Stuck for inspiration?  Why not experiment with ‘Daisy, Daisy’ or ‘Skinnamarink’ and take every opportunity to insert their name in to the lyrics .
  • Have you got a ‘Wake Up’ song?  When my eldest son was little, I always used to sing a song as I opened his curtains, giving him the auditory cue that the day had begun and continued it with the younger two.  I sang a song from the film ‘Singing in the Rain’ and changed the words.  Almost sixteen years later, I no longer open their curtains to wake them up but the song is still heard regularly in the house and is now sung by all of us.
  • Don’t forget tidying up music!  New comers to class are always amazed at how well the children tidy up as soon as they hear the tidying up music.  Unfortunately they rarely believe me that it is nothing to do with the actual music but it is the auditory cue that the children are responding to.  The children very quickly learn to associate the activity of tidying up with the music so rarely have to be told to tidy up.  This is an easy one to introduce into your home.  Choose a piece of music you like (you are going to be hearing it a lot!) and tell your child that when they hear the music you are going to tidy up together.  It will not work on the first attempt, it won’t work on the second, but within a week, the activity and music will be linked but you must be consistent on this one and tidy up as well!

As always I’d love to know your thoughts and would love to know your favourite soothing songs or tidying up songs.

ps  The words to our ‘Wake Up’ song are

Good morning, good morning.

You’ve slept the whole night through

Good morning, good morning to you”

pps  Jellybeans HQ tides up to the Kaiser Chiefs ‘I predict a riot’ which always works a treat in the morning to get shoes on ready for school!

Advertisements

How your child learns

‘Is there any point to coming to a music class?’

Does this sound familiar?

Is there any point coming as my child just won’t sit still?

or

Is there any point continuing as my child doesn’t join in, just stares at you?

Yep, I get asked this so often and my answer never, ever changes, it will always be a big, loud YES because how your child responds to class depends on how they learn.  Broadly speaking there are three main learning styles visual, kinesthetic or auditory but do you know which learning style your child mainly adopts?  And what about yourself?

Let’s start with the big balls of energy, the Kinesthetic learners.  They are the ones who are whirling, bouncing, toddling around the room, exploring the corners, the plug sockets.  They love being lifted, dipped, spun, swirled but may will resist loudly being brought back to a lap.  These jellybeans are not being disruptive or rowdy.   They are not ignoring what is going on.  They simply learn best when they use their entire bodies so as long as they are safe, let them experience the music physically and try to resist the urge to get them to ‘sit down and pay attention’.

Hands up who has a child who sits and watches everything very intently?  A child who will stare at either your mouth or mine while we are singing?  This child is not choosing not to ‘participate’ or is ‘unsocial’.  This child learns best when they visually focus intently on what is going on in the class.   To help them really maximise their learning, these are the children who appreciate big exaggerated facial actions when you sing and will watch your body move to the beat, so stamp, clap, tap purposefully.  Please try not to interrupt them when they are focused by trying to get them to drum with you or sing with you.  I have no doubt that the minute they leave the room all through the week, they sing, they move, they re-enact what they have experienced at home.

And last but by no means least, the auditory learners.   This child will be singing both in class and at home, although they may well be telling you not to sing along with a CD so they don’t have to cope with two different auditory sources.  These are the children who may avoid direct eye contact preferring to gaze away or be unfocused but they are not necessarily shy, they simply learn most effectively by focusing on what they can hear.    I know it is hard but as long as they are safe, let them be and try not to interrupt their focus.   These are the children who will be loving pauses in music play eg shake and stop and at home they will love simply clapping and tapping out a beat with you and ear whispering games.

But as with everything, we are more than just one thing; we are not mono sensory so please don’t focus too much on just supporting your child’s primary learning style.  In the same way that your child needs a balanced nutritional diet, they need a balanced sensory diet and that is easy, peasy – all our classes are naturally full of multi sensory learning opportunities giving you both kinesthetic, auditory and visual stimulation and support, so you both get a full brain/body experience with music every single class.

 

Why adults love ‘their’ Jellybeans time too

One of my favourite things about being Chief bean (apart from the obvious, I get to hold the jellybean!) is seeing the happiness and enjoyment on the adults faces as well as the babies and children.  It’s very important to me that you enjoy yourself in class which is why as a business, I take such great care with my music choices and aim to always have a relaxed, friendly class style.  These classes build communities, tribes, clans, call it what you will, of people with shared experiences and that is a wonderful thing.  Over the last 10 years, I have watched so many friendships start and blossom in class and in this ever changing world,  it is now possibly never been more important to connect in the ‘real’ world.

Parenting is hard work, isn’t it?  Whether you are a new parent with a baby that doesn’t sleep much or a ‘been there, wearing the covered in food t shirt’ parent of a 4 year old, (and all the variations in between), there are days when you crave human contact with someone who isn’t totally dependent on you.  Days when you just want to talk to someone who can say something other than ‘peppa’ or ‘no’.  Days when you want someone to say ‘are you ok?’   It’s for those days (as well as the great days when your offspring are perfect) that my Jellybeans Music classes are there for you.  You can rely on not just me but the class to be there to support you whether that is a sympathetic hug (if you’re a huggy type of person) or smile of acknowledgement if you are having a hard day or the highest of high fives in celebration of happy news!  We’ve all experienced the highs and lows of parenting.  We all have a story about the huge poo that went everywhere.  We all know what it is like to love and adore a tiny person so much but to feel a bit scared at being in charge.   It is those common experiences (as much as being told by a bossy Chief bean to get up and wriggle – I get embarrassed too sometimes) that bonds the jellybeans tribe together when you first meet and afterward it is having been together singing and having fun which you remember when you meet up in the supermarket all those years later – yes, I hate to tell you, but most of you will still be able to sing the Jellybeans song ten years from now as a certain duo who will remain nameless demonstrated in Stamford Waitrose only last week!

I like to think our Jellybeans Music classes are little break from life.  In class, it is all about you and your child having fun together, enjoying each other’s company.  I work hard to eliminate ‘flash’ points from the child’s experiences ie sharing issues – ever wondered why there are so many instruments? – so you will get time with your child enjoying themselves and you know you can trust me to always step up to the mark if you want parenting back up.  Class is a time where you are not balancing you, your child and the million other things that need doing.  It is not unusual to see adults suddenly either physically slump for a bit as they relax into class or suddenly brighten as the cares of the days slip away for a while and it is a rare day when everyone doesn’t leave with a smile on their faces.  Class is also a chance to escape from the ever pinging notifications on a phone and as all my classes are happy, fun places, it is easy to feel the happy vibe and get swept along.

But, I hear you all cry, you discourage us from talking to each other during class!   Yes, I do ask adults not to chat when we are singing or listening but music jam is not just about exploring instruments or playing with your child,  it’s designed to be a social time for everyone, a time for us adults to support each other, laugh together and make friends – after all, circle dancing or maraca shaking are great conversation ice breakers!

And finally, please don’t underestimate the skill that you will learn in class to sing your way through just about any parenting ‘thing’ you can imagine!   Just as important, if not more important, than the ability to create a dressing up outfit out of nothing, being able to spontaneously sing a song created just for them, all about them, will make you a super hero in their eyes.   What do I mean?  Remember the Lazy baby song?  Instead of ‘what shall I do with my lazy baby, throw you on the bed & tickle you’ try swopping it up to become ‘What shall I do with my smelly baby.  Throw you on the mat & change your nappy’  always remembering the golden rule to use their name if at all possible rather than the word baby!   Mashing up lyrics is one of my favourite music games and I love hearing the variations jellybeans adults have come up with – shake & stop becoming brush & stop to make teeth cleaning easier being a particular favourite so I’d love to know what you’ve invented.

So what do you think?  Have I covered why you love ‘ your jellybeans’ class?  I’d love to know so please do leave a comment.

ps Deep down would you really just like the chance to hold a cuddly bean and get a sticker?!  If so, just ask!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Jellybeans Music met Harry & Meghan

The week has finally arrived when the nation will assemble on their settees by 9am on Saturday 19th May, probably still bleary eyed and in our pyjamas to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and I am very much looking forward to it – it’s been a long winter, they are in love and it will be beautiful to watch.  But, and this is the but, and it’s a big one,  how do you translate a Royal Wedding into the world of the Jellybeans Music early years music classes and is it even appropriate to do so?

When William married Katherine in 2011, we celebrated the marriage in classes and shops and towns throughout the land were full of red, white and blue wonderfulness.  Even very small children were aware of flags fluttering everywhere.  They were desperate to hold and learn how to wave flags and the majority wore red, white and blue clothes a lot!  Shops were festooned with the memorabilia of the happy couple and the nation was on tenterhooks of excitement.   This time around, although we all wish them a lifetime of happiness, and I really do (especially after having been smiled at by Prince Harry in Grantham A&E once) it would seem the nation is far more relaxed about the event – the shops are not full of their faces, the flags are not flying down the streets and I haven’t heard of a single street party, which begs the question, if I decide to ‘theme’ a week of classes around a wedding, what if anything will that mean to the children and surely the whole point of the classes is to support their developmental needs?

So, here’s the deal.  It’s a huge ‘yes’ from me to the Union Jack, red, white & blue parachute for listening time where we’ll be listening to the traditional nursery rhyme ‘Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, where have you been’.   It’s an even bigger ‘yes’ from me to flag waving – thinking fast/slow tempos, gross motor skills, impulse control skills and we can extend the use into peek a boo time.  It’s even a possible ‘yes’ from me to heart shaped balloons on the lycra as the week goes on and wedding fever builds but this is a wedding where singing about the 5 corgis on the bed, or the wheels on the royal carriage going round and round, just doesn’t feel right if I’m creating a class thinking like a toddler.

What do you think?  Are you sad we won’t be singing about the corgis and twirling princesses?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubbles, Bubbles

It is no secret at Jellybeans Music that I love bubbles probably as much as babies and toddlers.  I love watching the tiny babies focus on the bubbles swirling above their heads.  I never tire of toddlers trying to catch and blow them and hearing early talkers say the word ‘ubble, ubble’ as soon as they see me, still gives me goosebumps.  But did you know that I use bubbles not just because I love them but because they are a fanastic early years development tool?

pexels-photo-279561.jpeg

As soon as the bubbles come out, I always start talking about how blowing bubbles can help to build mouth & jaw muscle tone and support breath control, all essential for speech development but did you know that bubbles also support mathematical developmental? It’s not rocket science but if you encourage your child to count the bubbles with you, you are helping them learn to apply the number labels to actuals.  Discuss what shape the bubbles are – again, words like circle, round are introduced in a ‘real’ way!

Watching the bubbles float and fly around the room is a real workout for your child’s eyes.  Very small babies will be learning to use both eyes simultaneously to focus upon the bubbles, whilst slightly older babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers will be reaching up strengthening motor skills and eye-hand co-ordination as they reach for and try to pop the bubbles.  One of my boys really didn’t enjoy messy play – not for him playing with spaghetti and baked beans but he really enjoy the ‘feel’ of bubbles and I think bubbles encouraged him to try new tactile sensations.

Finally, don’t forget it can be very relaxing just watching bubbles floating slowly down to the ground, so even the quietest child can enjoy a cuddle watching them.

But, bubbles are not just for Jellybeans – don’t forget to enjoy them at home together.  Why not try blowing bubbles over your baby/child while they are in the bath?  The bubbles will float and land both on the water (bubbles pop on dry surfaces!) and your child, giving a fun, visual, sensory experience.  Or, if you have a play tunnel, why not blow bubbles through the tunnel?  This will encourage your child to crawl through the tunnel and help to develop their sense of spatial awareness.

Take your bubbles outside and watch how high they fly!  Add a couple of drops of food colouring for extra pretty bubbles and try catching these coloured bubbles on paper!  I could go on and on, but perhaps the best tip of all, is to always have a small pot of bubbles in your handbag for those days when your small one is just restless and you have lots and lots to do.

Bubbles, bubbles fly around.

Bubbles, bubbles touch the ground.

Bubbles landing on my nose.

Bubbles landing on my toes.

Bubbles, bubbles fly around, bubbles, bubbles touch the ground

‘The Wheels on the bus go round & round’

pexels-photo.jpgOne of the first things people ever say to me when they find out that I both create and deliver Jellybeans Music early years music classes is either ‘You must love singing Wheels on the Bus’ or ‘You must be so tired of singing Wheels on the Bus’.  It is an iconic song of a 21st century early childhood, one of those songs that expectant parents probably look forward to singing with their new baby although I do wonder whether if we were to time travel forward to visit them 4 years later, those very same parents may very well be wondering why they ever wanted to sing it in the first place……….. It is one of those songs that as the first few notes unfold the vast majority of a class will know exactly what they are about to sing.  It is a ‘happy’ song in a major key that is musically easy to master and then sing.  In all honesty, I neither love or loathe singing the song and I must have sung it thousands of times since Jellybeans Music launched in 2007 but I do know that small children love it, and I mean really love it.   They respond instinctively to the strong repetitive lyrics and rhythm and how can you not want to sing a song that makes so many small children so happy they shine with happiness?

So let’s dissect it – and don’t worry I’m not going to have an existential crisis about why the wheels go round and round, we’ll leave that thought to those endless wooden signs you can now buy on Etsy.   The song is credited to Verna Hills and first appeared in print in 1939 in Volume 25 of ‘American Childhood’ and it is that version that we sing in Jellybeans Music with it’s musical echoes  of  ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ – go on, sing that song to yourself and you’ll spot the similarities very quickly.  As I said earlier it is very repetitive both musically, lyrically and rhythmically but is that necessarily a bad thing?  This repetition makes it very easy for the child to assimilate and sing, especially the last 3 words ‘ all day long’, a phrase I have observed many, many children first finding their singing voices belting out those 3 words (silent for the rest of the lyrics) complete with magnificent glottal stops on the ‘long’.

The language of the verses, although simplistic, are strong on ‘sound’ words, ‘swish’, ‘beep’, ‘waaa’, ‘chatter’, to name but a few of the many verse variations.  It is a song to encourage conversations and extend vocabularies – ‘what colour is the bus’ ‘how fast is the bus going’ – and crucially it about a bus, something surely 99.9% of children recognise and understand even if they’ve never been on one or seen a red double decker bus in everyday life.

Physically, it is a fantastic song for supporting the development of both fine and gross motor skills for example strong arms go ’round and round’ (gross), small hands ‘open and shut’ (fine).  As the child matures we can extend ‘swishing’ wipers arms down to feet and attempt to synchronise the movement likewise with the ‘beeping horn’ – one strong hand moving in and out becomes two, ultimately aiming for cross lateral ‘beeping’.   It is a song which enables us to again introduce and reinforce the music concepts of loud and quiet as the sleeping babies are ‘fast asleep, shh’ while the wide awake babies ‘go waah, waah, waah’ again depending on which set of verses are being used.

I think it is the variations that make this song such a staple and useful in early years – because the tune is so well known, it is very easy to adapt and switch up the lyrics; it is possibly the ultimate ‘go to’ song on a long, tiring parenting day.  Hands up who’s ever sung about The Wheels on the Tractor or The Wheels on the Snowplough?  Surely I’m not the only one who has sung The Wheels on Santa’s Sleigh?  It is one of those songs that can be sung on endless car journeys about what ever can be seen out of a window.  It is one of those songs that when your day has been going on for hours and you are exhausted you can adapt very easily and as we all know singing releases the feel good endorphin – for instance next time you just want to get your child in the bath, why not try

The baby in bath goes splash, splash, splash, all night long

or if meal times are becoming a battleground

The carrots in the bowl are really yummy, really yummy, really yummy.  The carrots in the bowl are really yummy, I think they’re scrummy

The food in your hair is stuck really fast, stuck really fast, stuck really fast.  The food in your hair is stuck really fast, all day long?

The Wheels on the bus is a song that ‘everyone’ sings.  It is a song that ‘everyone’ knows (or thinks they know).  It is the song that is always used in television sitcoms or news segments whenever early years music classes are depicted.  It is a song that I deliberately did not record for inclusion in the Jellybeans Music ‘Wriggly Giggly’ CD.  It is a song that I do sing in classes, but, and this is a very big but, it is a really teeny tiny part of our Jellybeans Music repertoire as I believe there are so many more wonderful early years songs out there just waiting for their chance to shine in your child’s musical world.

So, please, next time you hear those opening notes, don’t inwardly groan at my lack of musical imagination or knowledge.  Look around you,  look at the children.  Observe those strong shoulder muscles, arm muscles, finger muscles swirling round and round and think pincer grip, this song is helping my child develop the skills to hold a pencil.  Watch the anticipation on the child’s face as they realise they are about to be tickled and think, wow, my child’s memory is expanding rapidly.   Listen to the ‘sound’ words your child is singing and be proud of how their innate knowledge of rhythmic language and vocabulary is developing.   Hear the laughter and see the smiles as the children fly to the sky as the ‘stairs go up and down’ but most of all, remember early years don’t last very long, make the most of every single minute, be the adult who swishes, beeps, and lifts your way into their memories as you sing with them.

PS it’s the song that I will be singing a variation of when we celebrate Prince Harry’s marriage later this month …………….” The ladies in the church said it should have been me” …….. you have been warned!

 

The Journey Begins

Hello and thank you so much for joining me.

I know, because you are reading this blog,  that you are already very interested in the developmental benefits of early years music making and in particular how you can make music an even more integral part of your little one’s life.   Indeed, we might even already be sharing a melody or two every week in either a baby beans or a jellybeans class.

Introducing all genres of music to very young children is something that I feel very passionately about so I am really looking forward to sharing my expertise and experiences both within Jellybeans Music classes and in raising my own 3 children, with you.

Thanks for joining me and don’t forget to sign up so you never miss a blog!

Creativity is intelligence having fun — Albert Einstein