Your baby. Sometimes you look at them and see their future – their home, their spouse, their children. You know you’ll do anything to support them reaching that future. Just one little hitch: it means you’ll have to let them go. The great news is that you get to start small by helping them to see themselves as their own person, separate from you. This process is called individuation and begins somewhere around 4 or 5 months.
The process of individuation does not really end – anytime you have thoughts about ‘re-inventing’ yourself; or notice that you like (or dislike) something more (or less!) than at a previous time in your life; or perhaps are adjusting to a change in your daily dynamic (like say, becoming a parent!) – you are working on the idea of who you think you are as an individual. As an infant, your baby lives by instinct and reflex. Eventually they begin to notice that they are… not… you. That you are… over… there… and they are… over… here.
There are some simple Kindermusik class rituals which support the beginnings of this process. A couple of them are the hello and goodbye songs: musically greeting everyone (and bidding them farewell) by name. Yup – I meant very simple! You may think: meh. That can’t really be so valuable. Well, you can see it – you can see on the faces of the children that they know when they have been acknowledged – or when they have not.
A handful of years ago, a pair of twins named Sydney & Lindsey came to be members of the Baby Steps Giant Leaps community and shone a light for me on the power of singing the names of babies.
A steady beat is more than the foundation upon which a song sits – it is the foundation of life itself.
At around 18-weeks gestation, your baby’s ears begin to take shape and function. The first sounds he hears are the rush of your blood and the steady beat of your heart and soon, he will feel his own heartbeat: his internal beat. I believe this is the beat Thoreau is referring to in that oh so famous line about each of us and our own drummer. One day, your child will recognize a beat separate from himself: an external beat.
While he is a baby you will show him what it is like to match and maintain a steady beat by moving him or touching him to a beat. As he grows you’ll see him experiment with claps and stomps and such; with shakers and drums and, even his toys; with his whole body as he expresses himself with dance. At some point, you’ll notice that he is moving beyond the simple constant tempo of the song, and is beginning to experiment with different rhythms. And one day, he’ll be ready to learn how to write beats.
Matching rhythms will prove to be crucial to your child through his life in more than musical forums. He will discover success more quickly with skills such as using scissors, dribbling a basketball, skating… it is easy to see how this list could go on and on. I know a drummer who is also an accountant and uses his strong beat competency skills when entering data onto a spreadsheet – he finds it speeds the process, increases accuracy, and even proves meditative.
In every Kindermusik class there are opportunities for your child to develop and strengthen beat competency and for you to learn how to support the process by including acknowledgements of steady beat in the daily activities of your family.
Here are a few definitions and/or descriptions of some of the language surrounding beat used in classes:
Beat – The basic and constant underlying pulse.
Tempo – The speed of the beat.
Meter – The number of beats found in one measure of music. Also referred to as the Time Signature, the meter of any song gives it the first layer of “feel”.
Common Time – This meter has 4 quarter-beats in each measure... it is the 4/4 time signature. When asked to move to the beat, most people will walk, march or do the-ol’-8th-Grade-Step-Touch. The most basic counting form of this meter is ONE-two, ONE-two or ONE-two-three-four… or, you could simply go with BOOM-chick, BOOM-chick.
Waltz – This meter has 3 quarter-beats in each measure… it is the ¾ time signature. Placing emphasis on the first beat of this meter (ONE-two-three or BOOM-chick-chick) will quickly provide a sense of its inherent swoopy-swingy feel.
Wishing your family peace and joy,