Many have heard the phrase “music calms the savage beast” and in all reality, it can. Music has the power to do even more than that and we all feel it at some points in our lives, whether we know it or not. How music is used on a child, however, is very individualized and can be a delicate process. Music therapy is a growing and accredited field consisting of board certified music therapists who have training in how to address the needs of an individual by using music as their therapeutic “tool.” However, a music therapist can only see each child for a certain amount of time per week. The parent is the one who has the full time job of caring for a child. So how can a parent apply the benefits and power of music at home when handling daily life situations? Here are some simple ways:
- Use a familiar children’s song melody but change the words to assist in daily chores or activities. For example, to motivate your child to brush his teeth, you can sing (to the tune “Are You Sleeping”) “Brush your teeth, brush your teeth, and your tongue, and your tongue. First you brush the bottom, then you brush on top, then you’re all done, you’re all done.”
- Utilize song stories to teach skills and emotions. You can purchase books online or at any book store that are set to familiar melodies so you can sing the story to your child. Here are some examples of those books and what needs they address:
- Oh Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone, by Iza Trapani – teaches emotions, “wh” questions (what, why, where, etc.) and sequencing.
- Michael Finnegan, by Mary Ann Hoberman – teaches social relationships, emotions and “wh” questions.
- The Animal Boogie, by Debbie Harter – imitates body motions and teaches animal identification.
Many of these books can be found at www.westmusic.com
- Use relaxing music for relaxation or body regulation. If you’re child appears agitated, play some songs that have a slow tempo and a steady beat. Demonstrate deep breathing to your child, in through the nose and out through the mouth, using the least amount of words possible. You can also accompany this with firm massage or “squeezes” on his hands and arms to the rhythm of the music. Note: Pay attention to your child’s reaction to the music you chose. Preference in music is individualized and what may be relaxing to you may not be to your child. If it appears as though your child is becoming more agitated with the music, change it or turn it off.
- If you have a child with specific sensory needs, vibrations can be used from a large speaker or subwoofer to assist in regulation. Find a song with a slow, strong, and steady bass beat. Your child can sit next to, touch, or even sit on the speaker so that he can feel the vibrations and beat of the music.
As mentioned earlier, each child has very individualized needs and there are many more areas of need that can be addressed through music.
If music therapy sounds appropriate for your child, you can find more information and a local board certified therapist in Wisconsin at www.musictherapywisconsin.org. For a national directory of certified therapists, visit www.musictherapy.org.
What is your favorite song to sing with your child?
Erica Flores is a board certified music therapist who attained a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Alverno College in 2005. She started her business Healing Harmonies, LLC in 2009, providing services throughout Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties. Erica is married with a 3 1/2 year old son.