A week ago I held a children’s event in church, a great big celebration of the children who pass through our doors over the course of year, whether through attending our kids activities or through baptism. This involved a joyful couple of hours stringing up balloons all over our ancient building and flinging wide the doors to pack the church with wonderfully energetic toddlers and young children for an afternoon of crafts, storytelling and celebration.
One thing that really struck me from the afternoon, other than that kids are hilarious, brilliant fun and I love the church being full of them, was how much they engaged with the music I provided for them. For a few months now I have been playing the ukulele whenever I am getting a group of young children together. As far as playing goes I am definitely still in the novice category, and occasionally have to stop proceedings to find the right cord, but that didn’t stop the toddlers forming a little impromptu dance party right in the middle of the church!
Their faces as they danced away to one of the songs I played, which got faster and faster with every round, was mesmerizing. They were completely captivated, faces utterly serious as they flung their little bodies to and fro to the strum of the ukulele. I could see in their faces what I have felt before and what you might recognize too – that feeling of being totally captivated by a piece of music, carried away by it. It connects somehow to a part of you that is normally hard to reach. Like a key slotting into a lock, opening up a part of you that is normally kept tucked away.
It was so lovely to see that in the children that day and to note what a difference it made for them to have someone play something and sing ‘live’. I’ve certainly seen my little one have a pretty intense boogie to CDs in our house but something about seeing music made right in front of them seems to connect with children, and their growing little spirits, in a unique way.
It also reminded me that in our culture where so much stock can be put in words, sometimes it is through things like music and art that children can really let themselves loose and understand things that words could never convey. Learning is a sensory, full body, whole life experience for children, particularly when it comes to their spirituality. After all what better way to learn about joy than to spin around in a circle and dance till your heart feels like it might beat out of your chest?
If you’d like to introduce a little lives music into your home then do have a think about trying the ukulele. Learning has been great fun for me (and really good for my spirit!) and is surprising easy once you get the hang of it. If you’d like to have a go, or to encourage your kids to make their own music, then the course 21 Songs in 6 Days was where I learned and had a brilliant time doing it. You’ll be playing basic songs on day one of picking up the ukulele and you can get hold of a ukulele for very little money.
Once you’ve got going you’ll be relieved to know that most children’s songs are really easy to play. Check out the absolutely amazing list of songs on the Storytime Ukulele blog! As well as old nursery favourites I always try to introduce at least one new song to the children with a theme, like courage, joy or kindness. If you’d like to play songs like this from the Christian tradition then the Junior Praise book is a great place to start (you’ll find all your old school assembly favourites in there!). My favourite though, that sparked such enthusiastic dancing, is Trees of the Field by Stuart Dauermann. My toddler know follows me around yelling ‘Trees! Trees!’ to get me to sing it!
So what do you think? Any tips for introducing music into the lives of the children around you, and any favourite songs that get them moving?