Music can bring a smile to your face. It can calm you down or lift you up. It makes you move, makes you think. So it's no surprise that music has a proven, positive effect on learning.
Since music integrates the mind and the body-such as when a child dances to the beat of a drum or taps a tune on a piano-it helps strengthen sensory integration, a critical factor when it comes to reading and math readiness and achievement.
Here are some ideas for bringing the magic of music into the life of your family:
Turn up the volume (not too loud). Play some Motown tunes while folding the laundry, introduce your child to your '80s dance faves while cooking dinner, calm a cranky toddler (and yourself!) by live streaming some classical tranquilizers online (try tuning in to Boston Public Radio's classical outpost, wgbh.org). All types of music have a positive effect on learning, so turn up Dolly Parton or grab your fake microphone and air guitar and morph into the newest member of the Rolling Stones.
Dance! Dance! Dance! There is nothing quite like moving to the beat of an African drum or stepping to the rhythm of salsa. Grab your husband, grab your kids and dance! dance! dance! in the kitchen, in the living room, it doesn't matter where. As the old Japanese proverb goes, "We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance."
Encourage your child to study dance or a musical instrument. The Old Town School of Folk Music, with two locations in Chicago (Lincoln Square and Lincoln Park), offers an amazing array of dance classes for both children and adults, from West African to Mexican Folkloric, classical ballet to hip-hop. Music class offerings are extremely varied as well. From guitar and ukulele to fiddle and percussion, there's an instrument to fit every child (or adult-go ahead and take those guitar lessons you've always dreamed about). Piano instruction is offered for children as young as 3½ via the school's Little Red Piano program. Oldtownschool.org
Attend musical performances. Not to be missed is the world-class Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Kraft Foods Family Matinee Series, a kid-friendly introduction to the world's finest composers. Arrive early for pre-concert activities, including arts and crafts, instrument petting zoos, composers' workshops and performances by young musicians.
Support music education. Sadly, many schools have cut their music education programs due to budget constraints. The VH1 Save The Music Foundation wants to reverse this trend. Dedicated to restoring instrumental music education in American public schools, it works to raise awareness about the importance of music as part of each child's complete education. Since 1997, the foundation has provided $45 million worth of new musical instruments to more than 1,700 public schools in more than 100 cities around the country, impacting the lives of more than 1.4 million public school students. Check out the website, vh1savethemusic.com, where you can learn more about the importance of music in education, donate or, better yet, download the Music Advocacy Toolkit and learn how to take steps to encourage music education in your local schools and community.
Amy Bizzarri is a mom of two living in Logan Square. She also blogs at tiramisumom.com.
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