Family Involvement with Music Making at Home

When schools across the country switched to online learning in March, parents were faced with the task of supervising and helping with their childrens’ learning at home. As an elementary Music teacher, I wanted to make this transition as easy as possible for parents, and keep my choices of activities flexible, as I knew students and their families would be dealing with a variety of situations and issues during this time. After considering this for a few days, I realized that one aspect of music-making that had always appealed to me was its way of bringing people together, of creating community. I therefore decided to keep this in mind when choosing activities to post on my Virtual Classroom website, as I believe that one of the best ways for parents to keep their kids engaged with music-making at home is to make music as a family. Below are some ideas for parents who are looking to make music alongside their children.

Hand Clapping Games

There are dozens of different songs that have associated hand-clapping patterns, and it’s difficult for students to do them on their own! Parents and/or older siblings may know some from their own childhood that they can teach to younger members of the family, and there’s also many instructional videos online. Here’s a few that I’ve found and used:

In addition to hand clapping games, there are also many songs and rhymes for skipping rope. Again, parents can teach their children any they remember, or they can use this great resource: “11 Catchy Jump Rope Rhymes”.

Found Sounds and Making Your Own Instruments

Music can be found everywhere, and can be made using any objects! As noisy as it can be, children banging on pots and pans, and any other object they find around the house, are learning to distinguish between the timbres of those sounds and objects. Parents and children can experiment with these different sounds, and test out their sounds together. Families can try putting objects together in different combinations, and discussing the quality of sound with the children. Parents and children can also put together their favorite sounds, and create a piece of music. Don’t worry too much about how the song sounds—the very act of creating, improvising, and reflecting on their music-making will help students grow their musicianship.

There are many online resources and videos about Found Sounds and Making Instruments. Here are a few I like:

Other Musical Activities to do as a Family

Campfire Songs and Folk Songs:

These traditional songs are a great way for families to sing and make music together. Parents can share with children any such songs they know, and can check online for more (Camp Fire Songs, Folk Songs)

Read books based on songs:

I love to share books in class with my students, and the students really like finding ways to incorporate music into these books. There are many books out there that are based on songs, and parents could both read and sing these books with their children. These books can also be a great way to initiate discussions about the context of these songs; how or why the songwriter wrote them, what was going on in the world at that time, etc. Here are a couple lists of possible books:

9 Toe-Tapping Picture Books Inspired by Popular Song Lyrics

15 Multicultural Children’s Books based on famous songs

Learn an Instrument Together:

Have an old instrument hanging around the house? There are literally hundreds of ‘how to’ videos on YouTube that can help parents and children learn to play that instrument, and the experience of learning together could help strengthen bonds between them.

In conclusion, there are many ways that parents and other family members can help children stay engaged in music-making during this period of at-home learning. While hand-clapping games, jump rope rhymes, found percussion, campfire songs, books, and instruments are suggestions that I’ve given to my students’ families, there are many different ways to make music, and to use that music-making to bring families closer together. Sing, play, create…and most of all, have fun!

Heather Kelly has taught instrumental and general Music to elementary, middle school and high school classes in the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board in Nova Scotia since 2009. She is a graduate of both Dalhousie University and Acadia University, has a Masters of Education in Curriculum Studies focussing on Secondary Music Education, as well as the Orff Level 1 Certification. She is currently teaching Elementary Music (Primary to Grade 5) at two schools outside of Halifax.