Music therapy for children and families at home
- Mums Tips
- Parenting Skills
- Published on Friday, 08 May 2020 10:16
- Last Updated on 07 May 2020
- Monica Costa
- 0 Comments
Throughout the lockdown and forced self-isolation, my musical skills have helped me overcome loneliness and de-motivation. I have recently spoken with Louise Gregg, Music Therapist from Nordoff Robbins, who has told me about a music therapy project in collaboration with TV programme The Clangers.
Q: Louise, tell us about this project you have been working on with Clangers…why is it so important?
The project is a collaboration between music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins and children’s TV programme, Clangers and we have been working together to create a series of song videos for children and families at home.
Clangers has music and community at its heart, which makes them a perfect fit to help Nordoff Robbins champion music as a way to help families everywhere stay as connected as possible and to encourage children to get involved in musical activities that are fun, engaging and don’t need specialist equipment.
I think we can sometimes fall into thinking that we need to be experts or super mega talented to do anything music related but these videos are to demonstrate that anyone can get involved, just by using things around the house.
The impact and benefits of children getting involved in music, and particularly families doing music together are massive at any time. But right now, we are in a season where tension and uncertainty can be much higher and there is a strain on all of us. For that reason, it feels all the more important that this project is being released at this time.
Q: What does the partnership with Clangers add to the videos?
If you’ve watched Clangers you will know that their world is full to the brim of music, it’s such a central element and combined with how much of a focus they have on community, they are a perfect collaboration for these musical videos.
While the music is the focal point, it felt important for them to also be visually stimulating and exciting to watch. Having Clangers getting involved, giving tips and demos of things happening really brings the songs to life and will inspire children to get involved.
Q: How can families get involved?
The first step is to check out the videos. They all let you know if you need any household items at the start of the video and then it’s just a case of jumping into following the direction of the videos.
I know it’s easy to just get things for the kids and help them participate but we would love to see parents and carers doing the songs together with their children. If parents can step into the music with their children it will offer them much higher levels of connection and shared experience.
We also have backing tracks and lyric sheets that you can download from the Nordoff Robbins website (nordoff-robbins.org.uk/on-stage-at-home) so that you can have a go at make the songs your own. You could even incorporate them into your home-school activities by coming up with your own versions of the sounds or actions in the videos and then making your very own On Stage at Home music videos.
Q: In the videos, you show lots of different ways to make music, what advice would you give to a parent who really doesn’t feel musical?
I know the thought of music activities to anyone who doesn’t feel musical can seem daunting and let’s be honest, embarrassing.
But these videos are here to say that music isn’t always about creating a polished, ‘beautiful’ end product or performance; it is more often a world to step into that offers us a place to find connection to the people around us, to express ourselves and to have a great time doing it.
All of the videos are designed to be easy to follow and to guide you through, so you won’t need any musical knowledge to join in with your children. If you can’t stamp in time, it doesn’t matter, stamp your own beat. If you think you can’t sing, or shake something right or tap to the beat, just go with it, do whatever you can do and don’t worry about how it sounds.
There’s no right or wrong, just letting go and getting involved, then you can let the videos do the rest of the work for you!
Q: You often recycle household items into instruments – do you have any top tips for things people can find around the house to make music from?
Basically, if you can make a sound from it, then it counts as a musical instrument!
You can get really imaginative with it. There are the more obvious things like pots and pans and blowing over bottle tops, but a fun thing to explore would be to pay attention throughout the day to anything that makes a sound and then see if you can make music from it. How does it sound when we brush our teeth, or close the fridge, or walk down the stairs? I suppose hearing things as music instead of noise is the name of the game there.
If you want to take it to the next level, there’s lots of guidance online for how to make instruments out of household things. Things like making guitars out of elastic bands and butter tubs. I even saw someone turn a carrot into a flute! I can’t say I’ve tried it yet, our Clanger songs have been keeping me busy, but maybe I’ll give it a go at the weekend.
Q: This project looks so much fun, tell us about Nordoff Robbins and your role, what would you normally do in your job as a music therapist?
Like many of us I’m working from home right now and so this project is taking up some of that time as it is part of what Nordoff Robbins are doing to help us all stay connected, well, and engaging in music while we are in lockdown.
Nordoff Robbins is the largest independent music therapy charity in the UK, dedicated to enriching the lives of people affected by life limiting illness, isolation or disability.
As a music therapist I would usually spend my week doing music therapy sessions with people in a range of places. That could be mental health wards, special needs schools, dementia care homes, neuro-rehabilitation units or a host of other places. More recently I’ve been doing a lot of work with children and teenagers who have Autistic Spectrum Condition.
No matter where I am, a music therapy session would usually look like hearing whatever a person is able to do as music, whether that be vocal, playing an instrument or even just a small movement. Then we make music together and as we do, we work towards connection and through any challenges the person may have that are expressed through the music. It is an amazing thing to watch people find paths of communication or connection that they wouldn’t usually have and do things inside music that may not always be possible for them in other settings.
Q: How does engaging with music have a positive impact on children?
Music has such an impact on social, emotional, cognitive and physical development. Music can help children understand listening to others, to lead and to follow, to grow in imagination and creativity. It can be a way they learn to express themselves as well as a way they can help to regulate their emotions and their energy. It offers them a way of creating and deepening connection to others.
Songs can really help with language development and confidence in using the voice (not just for singing) and even just listening to music can help develop physical coordination. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m pretty passionate about children engaging in music!
Q: Do you have any tips for parents at home at the moment that are struggling to keep their child’s attention?
One of the things that we do as music therapists is to really follow the lead of the person we are working with. So if we are with a person who is unable to stick at one thing for longer than 20 seconds, then we do everything we can to jump into that world with them, rather than trying to force them into our own world or way of being.
We will try and create music that connects to what they are doing rather than getting stressed about what they are not doing and that will often lead to a point of connection that might provide an opportunity for more sustained engagement in something.
If it feels like your children have a short attention span, why not try going along with their shifting while keeping the activity options open. Try stepping into that world with them and finding ways to adapt the things you need them to concentrate on into what they are doing. It’s not a solve all, by any stretch of the imagination and it’s not always possible but it’s definitely worth a try.
‘On Stage at Home with Clangers and Nordoff Robbins’ is available to watch now at nordoff-robbins.org.uk/on-stage-at-home and also on the Clangers official YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/clangers
Clangers airs everyday at 6:10pm on CBeebies and is also available on BBC iPlayer.
Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London https://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums