A few years ago my friend gave me a mix CD of children’s music. It wasn’t typical children’s songs, like nursery rhymes, but rather a wide variety of songs that children would enjoy, included ‘adult’ songs that might strike a chord with young listeners. Earlier this year they got hooked on this CD. Exploring the music with them and noticing the way they interact with it has been fascinating and fun.
It wasn’t surprising to us when our sweet-natured Nina favored the slower, quieter love songs while our spirited Sylvie favored the loud, strong sounds. The music we are attracted to often reflects what we’re feeling inside. I loved having this wide array of songs to watch their little personalities reveal themselves. As they explored the songs together, they’d negotiate with each other -- "OK, you do the soft movements; I’ll do the hard ones."
For a good three months straight, every time we hopped into a car, before buckling in we’d hear "Can I hear my favorite song?" I knew this phase wouldn’t last forever, so I acquiesced every time. It always proved worth it to see our tiny 3 year-old girl singing in her deep voice, with her whole body rocking "I WANT A SNOW DAY!"
The interest in that particular CD waned earlier this summer while the volume of another band has been turned up for our family: The Beatles. We’ve been on The Beatles channel ever since and I really couldn’t be more pleased.
It started one night when we somehow happened upon a Youtube video of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. Sylvia got such a kick out of it; she wanted to see it again and again. It’s a black and white video clip, set in the 60s with four young lads in suits being chased by a gaggle of screaming young fans. The hilarity of the movie clip and the fact that it was a rock-and-roll song and Sylvie was hooked.
They heard more and more songs over the summer, especially during their time with their grandmother. The 20 minute drive between her home and ours was filled with Beatles songs. They’d come home from a sleepover there and I’d hear them singing the lyrics to themselves while they played. Their new obsession peaked my curiosity, so we began playing songs more and more around our house, turning it up loud while we colored and cleaned.
Though I’ve enjoyed the Beatles in my life, it wasn’t until now that I really spent as much time as I have truly listening closely to their songs. I’m finding them to be such an excellent band for the family to enjoy together. The songs are short, catchy, and the lyrics are so often simply about love -- loving each other, yearning for love, enjoying love. "I ain’t got nothin’ but love, babe ... 8 days a week." How much simpler can one express their love for someone: I love you more than there’s time for. That’s how I feel about my girls, so singing it with them when their little brains are like sponges feels like we’re planting deep roots of love together.
Listening to music together with children can provide easy access to where their brains are at developmentally. After a recent listen to the tune "She’s Got a Ticket to Ride," I asked Sylvia she thought the song was about. She explained to me her simple take on it: "She’s leaving and she didn’t say goodbye. He’s sad because he doesn’t have a ticket and she’s flying on a planeŠ to China." Plenty of topics of discussion there.
Another great thing is that The Beatles are so timeless. On a recent visit to my mother’s house, we opened up a box set of Beatles CDs that was a gift to her a few years ago. The girls opened up the boxes and chattered on and on about The Beatles -- which two are still alive, which is their favorite song - much to the delight of their grandmother, who lived among the original generation of fans years ago (one of those girls in that video). We put the CDs on loud and just sat still together, listening to the songs. I know these are deep memories forming for my girls. If you love The Beatles, you always will. My girls will tune in and out of them their whole lives. And when they do (whether they’re aware of it or not), their deepest memories will be of three generations of their family, deeply enjoying each other and enjoying music together.
Just like with books and foods and playtime choices, the music that young children seem to latch onto comes in waves. Before we know it we’ll be on to another genre, another band, another CD. As time goes on, it’s incredibly fun and valuable to explore different styles together -- to grow, to discuss, to laugh, to dance, and to create lasting memories. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.
Sarah DiNicola is the Communications & Events Coordinator at Windham Child Care Association and mom to Sylvia, age 4 and Nina, age 6. She welcomes comments, questions and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-5332 ext. 310.