Behaviour & Emotions

Making the most of music

Joy of Music

In celebration of NZ Music Month, we invited Emily Benge – mum, early childhood teacher and one half of the indie folk duo Little Ripples – to share insights on the value of bringing more music into the family fold and some ideas for how to do so.

What role does music play in your family life?

As a songwriter for children, I think a lot about how the songs I write have the potential to become part of family soundtracks. Music can wind us up or down, it can enhance a warm feeling or escalate a wild one. Music moves us. Think about how we put on some upbeat tunes to clean the house to, or the way great music makes a drive in the car so much better!

Music can wind us up or down, it can enhance a warm feeling or escalate a wild one.

The way we curate this soundtrack of life is pretty instinctive. We pick tunes that make us feel good. However, it’s worth noticing how the music in our home affects our environment and getting curious about atmosphere.

In both my parenting and teaching roles, I've found music to be an incredibly valuable tool for learning. Songs are a great way of connecting our children with concepts and ideas about the world around them. Many of our Little Ripples songs have bloomed from seeds sown by the children in my world – the stories they share and the questions they ask. An example of this is 'Little Bee', a tune that was inspired by a tired little bee spotted on the concrete path at the kindy where I worked. (The song has created a bit of a buzz and we were delighted to make a nature collage video thanks to support from NZ On Air’s New Music Kids fund.)

Music reinforces our children’s learning through vocalisation and movement, and embeds its magic in their hearts. Songs about simple everyday life can also work wonders to support daily rhythms and routines. And for both young and old, our ability to self-regulate emotionally can be influenced by music. For example, we wrote this song 'Hey Little Heart' to offer children some simple tools for managing strong emotions.

This May, you could celebrate NZ Music Month by pondering these questions:

How does the music we listen to affect the mood of our home?

What happens if we play gentle soothing music an hour before bedtime?

How could uplifting tunes affect our morning routine?

Tuning in

Whether you consider yourself musical or not, there are many ways you can encourage the musical interest of your child. Listening to a variety of pre-recorded music is a great place to start, but why not explore the world of live music too if you get the chance, especially taking a look at what the NZ children's music scene has to offer. The Kiwi Kids Music Collective boasts a supportive community of more than 100 musicians and entertainers all making wonderful music for our kids.

Here are some of my favourite Kiwi artists specialising in beautiful music for kids and families.

Musical duo Itty Bitty Beats are gorgeous wāhine from Ōtautahi/Christchurch who offer a bounty of sweet musical goodness to bring music into your every day. Their songs are great examples of music that enhances daily rhythms, for example 'Bath Time' (self-explanatory!) and 'Lay Your Head Down'– a soothing melody to send your child off to sleep.

When you can’t get out to performances, there are some wonderful opportunities to participate in live music online. Music with Michal invites us into her home for hearty live sing-alongs (during school terms). Members of the club can request songs they love and get shout-outs. It’s an inclusive and supportive community of families tuning in from their living rooms to fill their cups with musical joy.

Claudia Robin Gunn writes ‘warm indie folk melodies that capture the golden essence of childhood’. Often inspired by a theme, she explores concepts with song through a curious inquiry lens. Her album ‘Sing For The Sea ~ Little Wild Ocean Friends’ is due out soon and you’ll find this magical collection of tunes the perfect complement to the interests of young ocean explorers.

Recognised for their stunning reorua/bilingual Māori and Pasifika children’s waiata, Loopy Tunes offer music to local whānau that is live, interactive, affordable and fun through 30-minute, weekly outreach music sessions for preschoolers in Ōtautahi/Christchurch. If you don’t live in the area, they have a wealth of content on their YouTube channel for you to enjoy at home or in the classroom.

There are a bounty of wonderful playlists out there that can become regular tools in your kit for navigating the ups and downs of family life, so get exploring! Like and follow artists you enjoy and check out the playlists they curate to help you on your musical journey.

Ngā mihi nui aroha, thank you for reading and I hope I’ve planted some seeds for bringing the magic of music into your home.

Little Ripples are Emily and Sam Benge, an indie folk duo from Northland making sweet music for children that speaks to the ups and downs of family life in Aotearoa. Their recently released third album ‘In My Garden’ uses the metaphor of tending to the garden to talk about tending to the needs of our hearts and minds.

Little Ripples music is available to stream on Apple Music, YouTube and Spotify. Albums can be purchased from littleripples.bandcamp.com or littleripples.co.nz. Follow them on social media to keep up to date on all things Little Ripples.

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