Play and Music Together

(some excerpts from Music and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers)

For a child “play begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” Children are born experts at it, and this magical process is absolutely necessary for them to teach themselves what they need to know about their world.

There are several important characteristics that qualify an activity as “play”:

  • The activity is freely chosen.
  • The child controls its flow and duration.
  • It is intrinsically rewarding or done for its own sake.
  • The activity is relatively free of externally imposed rules (in contrast to games).
  • It needs to be moderately challenging in order to sustain interest, but not so hard as to cause frustration.
  • It thrives best when undertaken in a relaxed setting.
  • Most important of all, the activity must be fun!!!

Although children do take pride in the products of their play, the process or experience of play is the most important factor. That is, the main goal of play—simply having fun—does not require the presence of a product in the end.

The substance of play in very young children is usually made up of the environmental objects and experiences to which they have been exposed. In music play, the child teaches himself about the music of his culture by experimenting with the information he has gathered from his music environment. That is why the Music Together model interfaces so well with this wonderful learning process!

The class itself is a safe place where every child (and parent) is exposed to a rich music environment. Also built into every class is a continuous and even richer spiral of exposure to new musical elements, plus many opportunities for playful experimentation. In Music Together, the songs , chants, and class activities are purposefully chosen to challenge the child’s (and parents’) audiation (musical thinking process) and provide a rich “ear-food buffet” to act on in—and out!—of class. Research has shown a direct correspondence between the quality, quantity, and diversity of music stimulation and the extent to which a child’s audiation develops.

Although the Music Together class process supports safe playful interactions with the music and the class community, it is imperative that children take their experiences home and act on the information that has been gathered from the class music environment. Play that CD at home or in the car—share it with your whole family! How wonderful it is to see your child playing with parts of class by singing familiar songs or creating his own short songs. Celebrate when you hear her recite familiar chants or make up new ones about her play objects or experiences. Join in when you see rhythmic movements that may resemble some of the movements from class. Get out that songbook and page through it while singing or dancing.

All the while you’ll be enhancing your child’s musical development by supporting their playful interactions with the Music Together repertoire and processes. You might rediscover your delight in music making—if you haven’t found it already.