Body Music in silence. How a non-verbal approach can help to manage a group of children.

Sixty minutes of body music, singing, movement and body language. Not even a word, not a single interactions through language, all happened via non-verbal communication.

Two years ago I was in Italy, about to begin a body music event for primary school children. It was a one-off workshop so I met most of the children that day for the first time.

I didn’t plan to lead the workshop completely without speech but, before starting the session I observed the children’s behaviour and I’ve decided to try that approach.

Why?
Well, they were so excited to start the body music sessions with their friends that they were unstoppable! Speaking, laughing… making lots of noise!
I tried to introduce myself before entering in the room designated to the event but they couldn’t stop laughing and joking with each other. I asked them some few questions to open the communication and their listening but their interest at that moment was to speak between themselves.
I felt quite scared and powerless, not ready to start an event with twenty children that were not listening, in a space that it wasn’t mine, with their parents outside the room expecting their children to learn body percussion and have fun. How could I do that in a situation like this?

In that moment of stress and confusion, something came up to my mind: I needed to use a different way to communicate with them, to catch their attention, to surprise them and make them curious!

So, in a couple of seconds, I took the decision to continue without language, hoping that that idea would have work. Instead of trying to explain to them why they should have tried to calm down, I chose to use my most powerful “tool” to engage them: music!

I started tapping a rhythm on the wall and they all immediately stopped speaking to observe and listen to what I was doing. I continued the rhythm on the table, on the floor and eventually on the door of our room. That rhythm became our common way of communicating and exploring the new space. We entered slowly in the room, tapping the rhythm all together on the walls, playing a simple start-and-stop game, that I led through non-verbal communication.

They were so engaged and focused that eventually neither one of us felt the need to speak over the course of the session.

We did many body music activities and everything happened through imitation and improvisation. We had lots of fun, sometimes laughing because of the difficulty to understand each other without speaking (actually, that became a game itself!).

Choosing to rely just on non-verbal communication left much more space for music. Sounds and silence were the only elements to play with.

WHY PARENTS ARE SO IMPORTANT DURING MUSIC CLASSES FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS?

ENGLISH / ITALIAN

As children grow, our music sessions also change!

These gorgeous children started their music sessions with me when they were 5 months old, their parents brought them to every single class (based on the Gordon’s Music Learning Theory) since when they were curious and happy, little babies.

During these years, these parents have discovered a different way to interact, relax and play with their children, through sounds, rhythms and music. You should hear how they sing during the sessions!

Their children are growing fast and soon they will enter in the music room just with their friends – they will turn 3 soon – so right now we are working on their autonomy and independence, to facilitate this change.

Our classes follow in fact the musical and cognitive development of the children; every session is planned based on their needs, to stimulate not only their musical skills but also their general growth.

Parents are fundamental for us during this process so it’s really important to have them on board during the sessions, enjoying the music activities as much as their children.

WHY PARENTS ARE SO IMPORTANT DURING MUSIC CLASSES FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS?

They are their children’s reference so everything they do is an example for their children:

  • Everything a parent feels during the class affects their child. If a parent is anxious or doesn’t feel comfortable during the session, this will probably influence their child similarly. If a mum or dad is relaxed, then the baby will feel relaxed too 🙂
  • When parents sing or move to rhythms, they are showing their child how to enjoy music; they’re basically saying “It’s fine, we can sing, dance and move in this space”. This will help their child to feel comfortable, safe and enjoy the session.
  • In our classes, we ask parents to accompany our songs with easy ostinatos (repetitive notes or patterns): in this way children will be surrounded by richer music (called polyphony) that will support children’s musical development.
  • Playing and singing together with other parents is also an amazing example for children to collaborate and work as a team.

ITALIANO

Man mano che i bambini crescono, anche le nostre sessioni musicali cambiano!

Questi stupendi bambini hanno iniziato le loro sessioni musicali con me quando avevano solo cinque mesi, i loro genitori li hanno accompagnati ad ogni singolo incontro (basata sulla Music Learning Theory di Gordon) sin da quando erano dei curiosi piccolissimi

Durante gli anni, questi genitori hanno scoperto un modo diverso di interagire, rilassarsi e giocare con i loro figli, attraverso suoni, ritmi e musica. Dovreste sentire come cantando durante le sessioni!

I bambini stanno crescendo rapidamente e presto entreranno nella stanza della musica solo con i loro amici, senza i genitori – avranno quasi tre anni in Settembre – e ora stiamo lavorando sulla loro autonomia e indipendenza, per facilitare questo passaggio.

Le nostre lezioni seguono infatti lo sviluppo musicale e cognitivo dei bambini; ogni sessione è pianificata in base alle loro esigenze, per stimolare non solo le loro abilità musicali ma anche la loro crescita generale.

I genitori sono fondamentali per noi durante questo processo, quindi è molto importante per noi che siano coinvolti durante gli incontri, godendosi le attività musicali tanto quanto i loro bambini.

PERCHÉ I GENITORI SONO DAVVERO IMPORTANTI DURANTE LE CLASSI DI MUSICA PER I BAMBINI?

Sono i riferimenti dei loro figli, quindi tutto ciò che fanno è un esempio per i loro bambini:

  • Tutto ciò che i genitori sentono durante la lezione condiziona i loro bambini. Se un genitore è ansioso o non si sente a suo agio durante la sessione, probabilmente influenzerà suo figlio in modo simile. Se una mamma o un papà sono rilassati, allora anche il bambino si sentirà rilassato.
  • Quando i genitori cantano, tengono il tempo o rispondono in maniera musicale, stanno mostrando al loro bambino come godersi la musica; stanno praticamente dicendo: “È tutto ok, possiamo cantare, ballare e muoverci in questo spazio”. Ciò aiuterà il loro bambino a sentirsi a proprio agio, sicuro e a godersi la sessione.
  • Nei nostri corsi, chiediamo ai genitori di accompagnare i brani con facili ostinati (note o pattern ripetuti): in questo modo i bambini saranno circondati da musica più ricca (chiamata polifonia) che supporterà lo sviluppo musicale dei bambini.
  • Giocare e cantare insieme ad altri genitori è anche un meraviglioso esempio di collaborazione e lavorare di squadra.