Music and Self-Regulation

“The cerebellum right at the bottom of the brain is the timekeeper of the brain, controlling movement such as foot-tapping, dancing and playing an instrument. It plays an important role in emotional reactions to music. Our lower brain develops early and is functional from birth. It is involved with the regulation of all our primary body functions such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, temperature and regulation. Music helps with calming and regulation because it is an intuitive language of the emotions. We don’t have to think in order to process music. It can provide a calming, regulating environment of sound. The lower brain systems function without any conscious thought, but they respond to stress by speeding up our heart rate and breathing, slowing digestion, making the body ready for action. When we are highly aroused, it is harder for us to access higher levels of the brain. Music can calm stressed systems through the use of soft singing, rocking, patting, use of slow tempo and specific use of the elements of music.” (Wylie, 2017)

“Rhythm stirs our bodies. Melody or tonality stirs our brains. The coming together of rhythm and melody bridges our cerebellum (the motor control, primitive little brain) and our cerebral cortex (the most evolved, most human part of our brain)”  (Levitin, 2006)

What does this mean?

It is no coincidence that when a child is distressed our first instinct is to rock, bounce or sing to them in soft soothing tones. This natural response calms the child’s ‘lower brain’, returning them to a peaceful and regulated space.

When the lower brain is highly aroused it can be observed that children are in a state of ‘fight, flight or freeze’. They have no control over many of their actions as they are unable to use the other parts of their brain. These instances are sometimes referred to as tantrums, meltdowns or shutdowns. Often during this time, distraction, rewards or reasoning will not settle the child as they need assistance with self-regulation. This is where music can be an excellent tool as it brings the focus back to slowing the heart rate and breathing by singing in a slow tempo, allowing the child to feel calm.

Music can also be used to increase arousal. When singing to children in a faster tempo with complex melodies children can become excited and energised. These are songs that instantly make you want to get up and move or dance such as ‘Everything is Awesome’ from the Lego Movie

“The elements of music are used in very specific ways within Musical Play to match children’s energy levels, to build joyful, musical, regulated, relationship-based music interactions between parent and child, and parents and their children, within each Musical Playgroup.” (Wylie, 2017)

What’s in a name?

Someone asked me today why I chose to name our company Allegro Education. Although I put a lot of thought into this decision, I realised it is not written anywhere.

Allegro is a musical term that instructs the musician to play the piece cheerfully, with joy or in a lively fashion. This feeling is something that I wanted our clients to experience when using our services. Every child should feel joyful whilst learning, no matter the subject matter. Allegro also references my roots as a music educator.

Our catch phrase, or tag line Learning at your tempo expresses our philosophy as educators, that it doesn’t matter what pace a child is learning, it only matters that they never stop.

Instruments for Music Time

I have had a lot of questions recently about the musical resources I use during playgroup, so I thought I would write a post about my absolute favourite website, Optimum Percussion.

Anything in Boomwhacker colours or “Colour Coded”

Boomwhackers are a great resource by themselves! These long plastic tubes are pretty indestructible and to make a sound, you have to hit them on the floor, with each other or onto a hard surface. This makes them perfect for children who are full of energy.

Boomwhackers come in vibrant colours. Optimum stocks other instruments in these colours, making theme “colour coded”. This means children are easily able to associate the sound of a note across various instruments with a specific colour. Check the desk bells and the chime bars that follow the colour pattern. I use all of these on a regular basis.

 

World Instruments

Children should be exposed to instruments from all across the world. Although Optimum Percussion is and Australian Company, they have a wide range of world instruments that are of great quality. My absolute favourite would have to be my Hapi Drum. Although it was expensive to buy, the Hapi drum is every child (and parent’s) favourite instrument. It is tuned to the Pentatonic Scale, which means no matter what you play, it will always sound good. It also helps that it’s beautiful sound reminds you of a day spa! Rain Shakers are another great instrument, especially these ones that can go on your child’s wrists or ankles, and who can forget Castanets?!

 

 

 

Researching Music

This months recommended resources for music, play based learning and some music to use at home.

Anita Collins Music:

I was privileged enough to do a six month mentor ship with Anita and she is absolutely brilliant! Her website is filled links to fantastic research and videos of her work such as her TEDx talk (http://www.anitacollinsmusic.com/tedxtalk/)

Why play-based learning:

Play based learning fosters a sense of autonomy in young children as they can choose what they would like to discover. This is a fantastic way to encourage a love of learning in even the tiniest of humans.

Julie Wylie Musical Play:

I have had the pleasure of meeting Julie and she is such an inspiration! Her blogs are well worth a read as she presents up to date research in an accessible format. She has created 13 fantastic CD’s (that are available on iTunes and from her website) and I use them every day.

Catalyst- Music on the Brain:

This Australian Program doesn’t just look at how music affects children, but also adults and the elderly. It was this program that inspired me to work towards inter generational music programs as it can be so beneficial for everyone involved.

The advantages of an in-service music program

When I worked in Early Learning, there was no music program. I worked for three years to build up an incredible Music Education program but unfortunately, the program was not seen as a necessity and was dropped due to budget restrictions. While I can completely understand why this happened, I don’t believe it was in the best interests of the children.

After this occurred I was unemployed for three months, and I took some time to really think about what I wanted to do. I knew I loved music, but I didn’t want to be an external music provider due to how costly these can be to Early Learning Centers. Often, only centers who have large budgets are able to book these programs and I can’t help but feel bad for all the children who miss out.

This is where I discovered my calling. Teaching Early Learning staff how to deliver these high quality programs themselves means that

  • There is consistency on what is taught to the children
  • Staff know the children better than anyone and can really focus the music program on their interests and can cater to the needs of individual children
  • The program is visible to parents in terms of planning, reflections, documentation and feedback
  • Staff can feel empowered and confident when it is Music time instead of taking a step back
  • Musical resources can be accessed during the day for children to explore in their own time
  • Every child has access to Music. When hiring an external program, it is often only 30 mins, one day a week. When staff teach music, every child is able to participate in music, no matter what day they come to care.

My goal is to make music accessible again. Not just for those who have deep pockets