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Stop singing Mummy, Daddy be quiet

Hands up everyone who has ever been told to stop singing along by your child?  Yep, it happens to each and everyone of us who have ever spontaneously dared to sing along with whatever your child is listening too.  It might be a film, it might be their beloved Jellybeans Music Wriggly Giggly CD, it might an advert, it doesn’t really matter to your child, you are interrupting them in a way they don’t like and aren’t happy about.  

But, they are not channelling their inner Simon Cowell, they are not trying to hurt your feelings – they aren’t really old enough to recognise that you will be upset or irritated, they are still primarily egocentric.

Remember how you cheered when your child took their first steps and became a walker?  Remember how you supported your child as they worked out how to deal with separation anxiety?  It’s time to support and cheer your way through yet another developmental stage, the emergence of Independence and trying to stop you doing something they don’t want is part of that.

So next time you are happily singing and you are told in no uncertain terms to ‘shush’, try not to feel too upset or offended – easier said than done I know, I wasn’t allowed to sing at home for years when my 3 boys were growing up.  As one decided it was ok, singing with mum was acceptable, the next one would hit this stage and it would be back to silence on my part again.

Instead why not try these strategies

  • When you are told to stop singing, ask them to join in with you.
  • Give them a choice to direct how you are going to sing together eg do you want to sing the first bit and I’ll sing the second?
  • Let them feel involved in the decision making – “Shall we sing fast or slow?”
  • If they really won’t let you sing, agree to stop for that track but make it clear you really love the next song and will be singing the next song

There appears to be no research indicating that if your child restricts access to music it means they are either not musical or indeed a musical genius.  It is all about independence and gaining control over their environment.   I wish you luck and remember like all early childhood stages, it will pass.  You won’t be banned from singing forever by your small child.  Before you know it, they’ll be a teenager and you will be banned all over again because you are tragically too old and uncool to sing along or the music will be so awful you really won’t want too!

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Myth Busting – what doesn’t happen at Jellybeans!

I have no doubt that if you have taken the time to click through to read this that you are either already totally a fan of Jellybeans Music classes or you are more than a little curious about why grown ups willingly agree to sit on the floor (chairs are available if floor sitting is hard) and sing nursery rhymes tunelessly together with other adults whilst your baby either sleeps or your toddler explores their surroundings.  Go on, admit it, if you’ve never been to a music class, I bet you have lots of opinions about ‘what we do’, so, are you ready to go music class myth busting?

Music classes only sing songs which everyone knows so they’re not worth the money

Ok, maybe some music classes only sing songs which you already know but that is most certainly not the case in my Jellybeans Music classes.

Yes, hands up, we do sing ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ and ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ – the children would be so sad if we didn’t – but there currently another 156 songs in the repertoire that we sing, the majority of which are Jellybeans Music originals.  Yes, many may use melodies you are familiar with but hand on heart, I know that you will never ever have sung ‘Clap your hands to the music beat’ or ‘The Sneezing Song’ before as they were written and recorded just for my classes.   Did you know that we also use music from all over the globe?  From South America to Australia and everywhere in between.   We’ve even been known to indulge in a bit of punk and glam rock, bet you didn’t expect that.  Our music is feisty, it’s gutsy, it’s got attitude and style and plinky plonky sounds are just not Jellybeans

So that’s the music covered, singing songs is just the beginning of the magic of a Jellybeans Music class.  As an early years Montessori teacher, I make sure that every single activity we do has a solid basis in childhood development.  I spend a lot of time increasing my knowledge and keeping up to date with latest research, especially on infant brain development, so yes, for example, the children are chasing bubbles but they are also working on visual tracking, language development, breath control, emotional impulses, muscle coordination to name but a few as well.  All my classes support the Early Years Foundation Curriculum and prepare the child for school.  Bet Youtube doesn’t do that!

 

Music class leaders just switch on the Ipod and pretend to sing along while being extra smiley

Hmm, not me.  Yes, I smile a lot – I love leading my classes and when you’re singing all day long and moving around your body is constantly releasing the feel good endorphin serotonin, so yes, life feels pretty epic, it’s a physical truth.  Yes, I use an Ipod and yes, I do sing with it but I am a classically trained vocalist so pretty much always in tune and a lot of each class playlist that I create is either instrumental backing tracks or music to jam away with instruments to.  Yes, you’ll hear Kevin the male vocalist as well as Fiona and Rowena, but that’s essentially it.   I intentionally use those voices to relax people into singing at the beginning of each class then slowly but surely the backing vocalists disappear as the voices of the class both adult and child emerge.  Did you know that it is in early years that your child will discover their voice?  Their musicality?  They need to be able to hear their own voice and those of others around them which is why, yes, we do also sing totally unaccompanied and with just me playing either the guitar or ukulele.

 

I can’t sing and everyone will know and stare at me

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say enough times, that there are very few people in the world who can’t sing – and to be honest most that can’t think they can – but hand on heart no one is ever made to sing or expected to sing in class if they feel uncomfortable.  Most people in class will sing and will sing loudly, quietly, fast, slow, have a whale of a time and feel much better afterwards.  I always say you have the most beautiful voice as far as your child is concerned, it’s the voice they want to hear and the voice they are tuning into so give it a go when you are ready.  The rest of the class will all have insecure moments vocally but are so focused on themselves and their child, they’ll never be listening out for you

 

There are a few instruments that the children aimlessly hit and squabble over, some of which are grubby or broken

Let’s be clear here, I hate grubby instruments and spend time every single day of my working life checking for breakages, cleaning and sterilising.   Babies and children mouth everything so I intentionally only use high quality, expensive, tuned, percussion instruments which are incredibly sturdy.  There are no wooden instruments with splinters and paint chipping in my world.  There are over 200 instruments in the Jellybeans kit and BabyBeans have their own instruments (another 100) and it is very rare that children are unable to share – sometimes they need a little guidance – and Music Jam time is huge fun and very noisy.  We all play the instruments, we all drum, we all shake, we build towers, we roll rainmakers, we spin.  We play while absorbing the different rhythms that are guiding us and yes, at the end, the children tidy every single instrument away within 126 seconds.

 

My baby will either just sleep or cry all the way through

Yes, I won’t pretend, very small babies may well sleep through their very first few BabyBeans classes.  Equally babies have ‘off’ days just like us when it seems all they do is cry. But that really doesn’t matter. What is important is that you are out of the house, meeting people who are going through the same life experience and having time out of the ‘day to day’ slog of parenting.  By coming into class, you will be learning the songs you can use the rest of the week making playing with your baby, helping them to relax and sleep better using your new musical knowledge.  Before you know it, baby dancing and baby swinging will be essential tools in your parenting armour as will the download of songs and rhymes which accompanies every BabyBeans term.

 

My child won’t sit still unlike all the others’ so it will be embarrassing

In early years, how the child reacts and explores music is very physical, an almost unconscious response.  It is a time of intense physical development as well as social and emotional.

I chose all my halls with great care, thinking ‘how would a newly walking child try and escape, what can they climb’.  So, you can relax in the knowledge that my halls are pretty much like Fort Knox although you do need to keep a watchful eye obviously!   It really doesn’t bother me at all if they wander around the room, they are still listening to the sounds and rhythms, they are still taking part, they just want to be up and moving and I respect that.  There is a lot of movement within all the songs we sing, we jump, we roll, we wriggle, we clap, we fly to name but a few activities and it is my job to adapt any ‘plan’ to what is happening in the room so some weeks and worry about it, not yours

 

No one will talk to me – I’m not that sort of person

So who do you think goes to music classes?   I just know that in my classes everyone is welcome and valued.  Male, female, mums, dads, grannies, granddads, aunties, uncles, childminders, single parents, divorced parents, happily married parents, cohabiting parents, same sex parents, breastfeeding mums, bottle feeding mums, cloth nappy users, disposable nappy users, shall I go on?

Jellybeans Music classes are for everyone who wants to share time with their child having huge amounts of fun safe in the knowledge that they are supported in their parenting lives and the children developmental needs are being addressed and met.

 

I still don’t know if it’s right for me

Only one way to find out, book a trial class.  I don’t offer free trials at Jellybeans Music because I believe that what I do is worth every single penny.  I am a very experienced and trained professional musician and early years teacher.

But just so you know, Jellybeans Music classes cost £5 a class, payable in advance with discounts for siblings and no charge at all for under 1s if they are accompanying their big brother or sister into class.

So what are you waiting for?  It’s almost September, classes are filling rapidly, why not book today and find out for yourself whether Jellybeans Music classes are for you

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Who’s behind the camera?

Who takes the photos in your family?  Who is the one ‘capturing the moments’?  Who is the one saying ‘smile’?

If it’s like here, then it’s always me.  I’m sure Mr J does know how the camera on his phone works, but he never uses it (unless it is a direct order from me as in, mine’s run out of battery, photograph this now as happened at Charlie’s graduation!) which means I rarely turn up in photos.

When our boys were small, mobile phones didn’t have cameras, to be honest, mobiles were still large, brick like things.  Unbelievably when Charlie was born in 1995, digital cameras were not a ‘thing’ so in my hospital bag, I had a camera and 2 rolls of film which we then had to send away for processing.   I spent an absolute fortune photographing Charlie when he was a baby, but I turn up in maybe a handful of photos from those years although I was with him 24/7.   Likewise, when Sebasti was born, he was photographed a lot, especially with Charlie but me, I’m again a shadowy presence who pops up occasionally.   I do exist in the photographs of Tobias being born thanks to a very camera enthusiastic doctor who decided to thoroughly enjoy taking shots of my C section with our camera, but I don’t tend to have those out on display in the living room!

And now, cameras are everywhere, photography is easy, no more hauling around the huge camera, it’s the age of the selfie.  My dog is photographed incessantly by me, she has developed a ‘look’ now of ‘seriously, can’t we just get on with it’.

I was always embarrassed by my appearance when the boys were small, so I didn’t exactly want to be photographed with them.  They were (and still are to me) gorgeous individuals and I was (still am as they now tell me) the tubby, short, tired looking one with dodgy hair.  But I do regret that I’m not there in the photographs.  I know I laughed a lot with them.  We played a lot.  We sang a lot.  We baked, we painted, I loved their toddler years.  I wish I had photographs that I could look at of the days that we just sat on the settee for hours and hours reading books.  I almost wish, I said almost, that I have photographs of the tough days, the days I cried because it is so hard being a mum.

So, don’t be like the ‘old me’.  Be like the new me – boys and I have a daily selfie routine.  Yes, I look tired in 95% of the snaps, rarely am I wearing make- up.  These are certainly not staged and filtered pictures, but these are the reality images of our family lives, wearing pyjamas at 4pm because days have been busy, covered in soil from gardening, asleep on the settee, falling over in mud, hugging, laughing, crying even and I’m proud to be in every single one.

Ps Obviously 99% of the time I’m still the one behind the camera, old habits die hard, and the photos on the bookcase are of my boys, dog and husband but I’m trying, baby steps and all that

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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!

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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.