This week, more than ever, I have been thankful for how music can help a child’s social skills and confidence after seeing first hand the opportunities it has given my son!
Music and social opportunties
Just recently, my ten-year-old son joined a wind band with our local music centre. Having played the trombone for 2 years and acquired his first exam grade at Easter, we thought (and he agreed!) that it was time for him to have a go at a group. So, off he went with a little apprehension but came out beaming and absolutely LOVED it! He is playing with mostly older children, something he can’t do at school anymore now he is in year 6, doesn’t do in any of his age-specific sports nor does he get this experience from his individual instrumental lessons.
This week, he asked “Mum, is it band night tonight?” to which I answered yes and he performed his own ten-year-old happy dance (apparently this is a ‘thing’ …). It made me so happy to see him looking forward to going and to see his smiley happy face when he left – finally! (Question: why does he dutifully help to tidy everything away after band but not at home?).
I know how he feels. The pure joy of working together with others to make music is not like anything I have found elsewhere.
Why is music so good for enhancing a child’s social skills?
From birth, music-making can provide an opportunity for babies to bond with their caregivers. By cuddling, playing, singing and humming with your child, you provide a safe environment for strong emotional development and early socialisation. Babies can also be exposed to simple turn-taking activities such as listening to instrument demonstrations and sharing instruments.
As babies turn into toddlers, music-making offers a child the opportunity to interact alongside others during instrument play and also with others through group and circle dances. Making music increases their self-awareness and confidence and offers plenty of opportunities to practise skills such as sharing and taking turns, and to follow simple directions such as ‘go’ and ‘stop’, in doing so enhance their own self-control. Through music, the preschooler can begin to explore their emotions and start making friends and music together. They become more confident in themselves and with their peers.
As the young mind becomes more independent and determined, music-making can provide a safe environment where ideas can be expressed, where disagreements are positively resolved and where cooperation is key. Children also learn to sit patiently in rehearsals, learn to follow rules and conventions and gain an individual motivation to succeed for the greater good of the ensemble around them. Most importantly, they begin to enjoy the company of others by sharing a mutual love of music.
Music provides new ways to socialise
Even into adulthood, music continues to provide me with a way of meeting new people and socialising. Indeed, I recently travelled to Dusseldorf, Germany under a twinning scheme between Reading Symphony Orchestra and the Orchester de Landesregierung Dusseldorf e.V. As orchestras from twin towns we take turns to visit each other, continuing and celebrating the positive relationship between our towns since 1947. As expected, an amazing weekend was had by all with a wonderfully inventive children’s concert performed on the Sunday morning combined with some great hospitality, sightseeing and, of course, beer! It is just shy of 25 years since I last travelled to Germany as part of an exchange trip with a youth wind band, an opportunity that I still remember clearly and that I hope my own children will have one day. Making music transcends language barriers and provides social opportunities that are not easily found elsewhere.
For more information about how your child’s social-emotional skills are developed in a Kindermusik class, visit http://musicalpathways.net/docs/ourtimesocialemotionaldevelopmentbook.pdf