By ROB W. ANDERSON
Music has a profound effect on many people – especially children.
To a kid, music is fascinating. A song can help soothe an infant to sleep, and singing a song in a group setting can help children learn rhythm, or repetition of pattern, and even develop social skills.
Debbie Blakeslee leads the Kids Rhythm and Play Group at the Tahlequah Public Library every Monday morning from 10 to 11:30, and believes in the practice of rhyme and rhythm as part of a child’s early development. She and her 6-year-old, Meghan, participated in a similar group for military families on Tinker Air Force base in Oklahoma City.
The Tahlequah children’s group Blakeslee leads is for infants and kids up to 5 years old and their caregivers, whether it be mom or dad, a grandparent or even a baby sitter.
Learning how to share is one of the first lessons the group practices.
“We ask the caregiver to bring a toy that the child wouldn’t mind sharing with the other kids. We encourage them to share toys,” said Blakeslee. “A lot of times, a child is always interested in someone else’s toy. We always do a sharing song. We pass a stuffed dog to learn your neighbor’s name. It’s called ‘Bow wow wow, Whose dog art thou?’ They have to pass the dog to their neighbor, and we all say ‘bow wow wow, whose dog art thou?’ And we do classic songs like ‘Wheels on the Bus’ and learning songs, where they learn about the five senses or counting - just basic things that pre-school age children are learning.”
As described on an early childhood development website, The Creativity Institute, kids of all ages express themselves through sounds they find pleasant, or harmonized. Music is pleasing to the listener, the repeated beats or sounds in regular patterns can be fun, while music and rhythm can be helpful to children when needing to express their emotions. It also helps to release energy or direct it toward creative and productive goals, like practicing social skills that will be used in public settings like school or daycare.
“It’s also for the caregiver to be able to interact with other parents or adults,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to stay at home and not have that interaction with other mothers or grandparents, or whoever it is.”
Blakeslee said the group offers a snack time, and items brought are on a rotating schedule so each caregiver may contribute. Activities like the learning songs or parachute play are held during circle time after the kids enjoy their snack.
“We shake the parachute and make things pop like popcorn. The kids really enjoy parachute play,” she said. “We also do freeze stands. We play CDs, and they tell them when to freeze. The caregivers and the children participate together.”