Music to your kid’s ears

Sing, sing a song, sing out loud, sing out strong…

By Starr Cunningham

It’s a simple and catchy refrain that rings familiar with many of us. Whether you know it from listening to Karen Carpenter, watching Sesame Street, or singing it around a campfire, it’s one of those melodies that gets stuck in your head. At least it does in mine.

I grew up singing. As a member of the junior choir in church, I attended after-school rehearsals at least once a week and performed a minimum of one Sunday a month. My mother also signed me up for voice and piano lessons when I was in grade four. I stuck with the piano lessons until I miserably failed my Royal Conservatory exam around age 14. My younger sister, Shannon, and I continued with singing lessons until we graduated high school.

I have fond (and not so fond) memories of competing in various music festivals throughout the years. My fond memories focus on hitting all the right notes. My not so fond recollections centre on losing my harmony in the family duet competition (sorry Shannon) and forgetting the words in a well-attended foreign language class. I recall the adjudicator saying something like, “If you knew what you were saying up on stage with your improvised German, you certainly wouldn’t be smiling.” 

Needless to say, my mother and I were both mortified.

Looking back now, I can smile about the mistakes. In fact, I think I can safely say everything associated with singing makes me smile. To put it simply, singing makes me happy. Even today I continue to warble as part of my Sunday congregation and can regularly be caught crooning in the kitchen, in my office, and yes, even sometimes out in public (by mistake, of course). Trust me, I’m no Sarah McLachlan, but who says you have to be super talented to share your voice? Not me.

At the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia, we regularly support music therapy. We fund programming in several Nova Scotia senior’s homes, we provide it to our friends at Laing House, and we showcase it whenever we can. We have featured music therapy performances at our signature event Festival of Trees, at our annual general meeting, and at special receptions for our partners and volunteers. Our music therapists and clients have used guitars, keyboards, harps, small drums, shakers, and even simple triangles to lighten and brighten the mood. It never fails to entertain, create laughter, and generate social interaction. Not rocket science, but definitely noteworthy and good for everyone’s mental health.

Music therapy involves using music and musical experiences to preserve or progress one’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual health. Music is the perfect mode for this creative therapy because it’s non-threatening, non-verbal, motivating, and fun. 

When my daughter, Lily, was only a toddler we started attending weekly Kindermusik classes. They’re designed to appeal to the child, but the parents (myself included) enjoyed them too. There’s just something about dancing around a classroom with bells on your ankles that sparks delight in even the most cynical of souls.

Sometimes it’s the learning we do without even trying that makes the most difference. Music therapy is proof of that. So as you look for ways to keep your youngsters flourishing while away from the routine of school, why not consider making a little music together? You never know, you might just discover that whistling a tune, dancing up a storm, or singing a song will benefit you both in more ways than you ever imagined. Now that’s music to the ears.