Music is a magical way to build strong bonds with your grandchildren–and have fun while you are at it!
Before he could walk, my grandson could dance. Whenever he heard a lively song, he began to move his body to the beat. When his muscles and coordination caught up to his desire to move, he became a dancing machine. Naturally, we all provided lots of lively music to encourage him, and we were rewarded with performance after performance.
We are wired to recognize rhythm from the earliest age, and nearly every culture has songs that are meant to soothe babies and entertain young children. Whether you are a music lover or not, music is an incredible way to connect with your grandchildren. Here are five ways to use music when you are playing with your grandchildren.
1. Singing and reciting
Even those among us who were not blessed with vocal talent can sing a lullaby or The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Hearing these songs over and over teaches important elements of speech and communication, like tempo, pitch, and rhythm. The call and response of songs like Down by the Bay mimic conversation and improve listening skills. What’s more, sharing the songs and rhymes that our parents and grandparents taught us connects the generations. Plus it’s fun!
2. Rhythm instruments
Hand a baby a spoon, and they will bang it on whatever they can reach. Making music is really just a refined version of making noise. As babies learn they can make noise, they will delight in every opportunity to do so. Providing them with ways to make noise helps develop their ability to make music. Simple rhythm instruments like shakers, tambourines, and small drums are a wonderful way to introduce musical instruments. Homemade versions are easy to create and just as effective. Provide different size cans and containers and a wooden spoon or two, and sit down with your grandchild and tap out rhythms together.
3. Parent-child music classes
Many communities offer parent-child music classes designed for very young children. These make a thoughtful gift for young parents, provided their schedule allows for it. If you are a local grandparent, you might even be able to tag along or fill in for the parents. To find a class, try Music Together, Kindermusik, or Google “Parent child music classes” plus their zip code.
4. Sharing favorites
Music is a great way to share parts of yourself with your grandchildren, no matter their age. What are your favorite songs? Your favorite artists? Your favorite genres? Share them! Play classical music during breakfast, or Garth Brooks while you build with blocks. Not only are you exposing them to things you love, you are creating powerful musical memories. Play Purple Rain often enough, and some day they will hear it somewhere and think of you.
5. Live performances
Children often don’t realize that the songs they hear at home are made by real people playing real instruments. Taking them to a live performance can inspire and delight them, and sharing live music can help connect them with their community. Look for local performances aimed at children, or summer concerts in the park. As they get older, attending concerts and recitals can broaden their horizons and bond you through a shared love of music.
Encouraging babies and small children to sing and move to music is a lot of fun—and has the added benefit of helping their cognitive and social development. As grandparents, it’s an ideal activity for the time we spend with them, even from a distance.
More ways to connect:
5 Ways to Be More Present with Your Grandkids
Connecting with Grandchildren Through Reading
Being Silly Keeps You Young