As any parent of two or more kids will know, it can be pretty difficult to find an activity that all your children can enjoy together. Last year, with toddler Joel and baby Lois, one of the activities which we all enjoyed was dancing. Joel has always loved moving to music and Lois would go all giggly being swung around in my arms as I threw some shapes to Blur, Ben Folds Five, The Proclaimers…whatever we could lay our snotty little hands on.
Over the last few months, Lois has started to spontaneously bounce around whenever music comes on; she doesn’t need to be told. I like to think that this is partly due to the crazed antics of her mother in her first few months!
With my music educator’s hat on, any sort of movement to music is an excellent tool for learning. It was something we were encouraged to do in the classroom, although you can imagine I never had a huge amount of success with the age bracket entrusted to me. (11-18…just the age when you want to make an idiot of yourself in front of your peers.)
For those of you who, like me, enjoy a bit of dancing every now and again, I thought I’d encourage you with some thoughts on its benefits. For those of you who wouldn’t be seen dead choreographing to the music your toddler requests, maybe this will make you think again!
First off, moving to music has no rules, no set outcomes, no predicted end result. Healthy participation in these sorts of activities encourages creative problem-solving – the antithesis of a spoon-fed education. Your child is coping with a ‘problem’ (“Music with no choreography…what shall we do?”) and learning how to come up with the ‘solution’ (“I could jump around, then throw my hands in the air, then spin round, then nod my head…”). Of course none of this is being articulated verbally but it’s happening none the less.
Second, moving to music helps us to gain an intrinsic sense of rhythm. When our whole bodies are involved in ‘feeling’ the pulse, we develop an instinctive knowledge of beats, bars and time signatures. From a young child’s perspective, this gives them a great head-start for learning an instrument later on.
Third, when we move to music we are experiencing that music in a deeper way than by just listening to it. We notice far more about the music’s rhythm, changes in texture, bass line, counter melodies, and so on, because we’re looking for clues that will help us know what to dance. For young children especially, with limited communication skills, dancing is a great way to express what a particular piece of music means to them.
Fourth, dancing in an unstructured way in a supportive environment develops confidence and boosts self-esteem. It encourages us to let go of ourselves – and gives us the freedom to try new things and make mistakes. What important life-skills for a young child to start learning!
Add to this the fact that dancing is a great form of exercise, doesn’t necessitate leaving the house and has the potential to entertain several different-aged children at once…and you get a pretty strong argument for dancing round the lounge!