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November is Kid Music month. I’ve invited guest blogger Matt Heaton to consider music made for kids, music made with kids, and the bigger picture of feeding all souls with music, and musician/parent Lissa Schneckenburger to offer tips for Thanksgiving travel with kids in tow. This week, Matt shares thoughts on how children and caregivers can get higher benefits from kid music events.

OK, at first blush, ‘how to go to a sing-along’ might not seem like a topic worthy of a whole essay. I mean, without offering tips about how to get your child(ren) out of the house in a timely manner (I cannot), then what else is there to say?

Is there anything more to know than: find a nearby show, get there early enough to get a ticket (a fairly significant aspect at some libraries), and enjoy the show?

Ah, but what are you actually doing in that room? Is it a concert? A playdate? What if your kid isn’t listening? What if he/she makes noise? What if you don’t know the songs?

I have performed for a LOT of sing-alongs over the past few years. I’m probably doing one right now. And I have some thoughts and advice to make the experience more fun and enriching for everyone.

First of all, I assume you’re attending because you have one or more children in your care. (I mean, all are welcome, but…) So you might as well help your child get as much out of the experience as possible, right? This leads me to mention involvement:

Engaged participants at the Boston Public Library

Engaged participants at the Boston Public Library

Be Involved
Consistently, the kids whose parents/caregivers are singing/clapping along? THOSE are the kids who are really able to focus. They learn the songs, they laugh at the jokes, they learn that hearing and seeing live music is an enjoyable experience. Maybe they’ll be more open to going to museums, to attending live theater…

This leads me to the caution against non-participation:

Don’t Ignore the Stage
Sing-alongs are short. Usually 30 minutes. Put your phone away. OK, you can take an adorable picture or two; but it’s not the time for Facebook or checking email.

And for the love of all that is holy, do NOT have a loud conversation with other adults. I totally understand that you are desperate to talk to another adult human. I’ve been there. But wait until after the sing-along to catch up. If you are chatting, it sends the message to your child that music is something to be ignored. (This doesn’t bode well for appreciation of art, literature, dance, and beautiful things in nature either).

Plus, I can hear you, and it’s distracting.

Be Prepared
Despite your own attentive efforts, your kid might go off in different directions. It’s okay! As long as he/she isn’t hurting anyone or touching my stuff(!) there’s no harm done. Your kid is probably still taking it all in (like my own child, who has seemed aloof or has been fairly ill-behaved at sing-alongs, but then gone on to sing through the ENTIRE set in the car on the way home). Keep at it. Go to hear other live music with your child. Bring crayons, snacks and toys. If you are consistent, and if your kid sees you enjoying hearing music, the message will get across!

Sing-alongs are a fantastic resource. Many, many libraries offer them, just check around. They are places where you get some free entertainment and education, social interaction for you and your child, and have a fun experience together.

See you at the library at 10am (local time may vary!)

Matt Heaton has degrees in music performance and has performed Irish traditional music around the globe. But the 5-and-under set has been his most honest, open, and challenging audience yet. Matt is constantly inventing ways to connect with and learn from young people and their parents. His two albums for children (Happy You Made It and Toddlerbilly Riot) are humorous, educational, and well-produced. And they show how “kid” music can also just be GOOD music.

In the Boston area? Be sure to save the date for Matt’s big February Coolidge Corner show (Sunday Feb 26th at 10am… plenty of advance warning!!!!! Also, keep an eye out for his forthcoming Money Planet, an album of songs to teach kids about money and economics, and to stimulate lively dinner conversation for the whole family.


Leap, Little Frog

a musician's musings on nesting, being creative, traveling, and parenting