Yesterday I posted about how making music together was great for social learning. Music is inherently social, but there are ways to make the music itself social! So, here’s the challenge: have an exclusively musical dialogue with your little music-makers!
Just a warning: some children will rebel against this idea, so it may take many attempts to get them used to the idea of conversing with you musically. Find the way they are most comfortable expressing themselves musically. For one child that may be through movement and dance, another with instruments, another with chanting, and yet another with singing. Keep at it until you find what works. This is a great exercise in working around individual differences, a skill that is useful for all those early childhood battles, like potty training.
You can use this rhyme from the James T. Callow Folklore Archive, which has been modified for this purpose.
My mother, your mother
Lives across the way
Every night they have a chat
And this is what they say*
After the introduction rhythm, you can make up a chant, a rhyme, or melody and then the child can respond. Often, children will mimic exactly what you do, which is ok. Encourage them to make up something different. You’ll find as they grow older they have more musical ideas to choose from.
In my experience, sometimes children will refuse to respond “musically” -probably out of discomfort or embarrassment- but I have yet to see a child (or adult!) give a musical response that was inappropriate. For instance, in the audio examples above, I’ll chant the rhyme in its original duple (think “in two,” like a march) meter, then in triple (think “in three,” like a waltz). Once the meter is established, a child with enough musical experience in duple or triple will tend to stick with the meter provided. Their response may be longer or shorter than yours, and that’s ok, too.
You can be creative and change the words to suit musical movement instead of dialogue, with “every night they hang their clothes and this is what they do.” Instrumental improvisation, with “have a jam,” or even silly improvisation with “my doggy, your doggy…” You could go so far as to try to sing it in different tonalities, also. The possibilities are endless.
Let me know how your musical dialogue goes and how you found how your little ones were most comfortable improvising!
*I first came across this rhyme used to start improvisation at a workshop given by Wendy Valerio, so credit goes to her for the original idea! It’s just too good not to share!