When I became a parent there was something that completely surprised me! I constantly thought to myself...
"OH...MY...GOODNESS! THIS IS SO HARD! No one warned me how tough this would be!"
Throw in a pandemic, trying to work, an unknown school schedule (the list goes on...) and WOAH! Being a parent right now can be super stressful. At the same time we're processing change and instability, we need to support our kids through this process.
Navigating these past few months has been a journey...to say the least ;)
If your kids are like mine, there are times when they are HYPER to the max! There's just no calming them down. We have had quite a few of those hyper days pop up over the past few months and I've been so grateful that we could go outside to play.
Now with the school year beginning many of our kids are expected to focus on schoolwork at home. This is a BIG change and our kids may need our support to make that transition.
So how do we help them?
We can help them regulate their sensory system so they can do their best work!
FIRST, what is the sensory system?
All our senses make up the sensory system...of course. ;) We're familiar with visual, auditory, taste, and smell. But most people aren't as familiar with proprioception and vestibular systems. These two systems are KEY to our kid's ability to focus. Today we're talking about proprioception...
How does proprioception help my child focus?
Close your eyes and drink a glass of water. Do you have to see the glass in order to bring it to your mouth? For most of us, we can do this exercise without even thinking.
We take for granted that we can sense where our arm is in space and the distance we need to bring our hand to our face.
Simply put, proprioception is being able to sense where your body is in space. If your child is over-excited or just can't sit still, proprioceptive exercises can help them feel more "in their body". This is true for ALL kids.
Proprioceptive exercises help a child feel calmer, grounded, and focused.
How can music help?
Music activates parts of the brain that support regulation and attention skills. Picking music purposefully can help our kids calm down, be more alert, and be more focused.
Drum roll...So how do we use music to help our kids focus?! Watch this first! ---->
Let's get started!
1. If your kiddo needs to be more alert (they're tired and lethargic, etc.) try this...
Break out your favorite "action song" and move along with it. Focus on songs that involve clapping, jumping, or stomping. Use a song with 60 to 120 beats per minute (moderate to fast tempo song).
This one is definitely a favorite!
The song structure and quick changing movements helps wake up the brain and body while organizing the sensory system. If your child gets "too excited" with this song follow it up with a slightly slower song that you sing live (without a recording).
2. If your kiddo needs to be calmer (they're over-excited, can't sit still, etc.) try this...
Choose a song with slightly slower beats per minute (65-50 BPM) and slower organized movements. Be careful not to start too slow, as an over-excited kid won't typically respond well with this drastic change.
You also want your movements to be organized and in straight lines (for example side to side swaying or front to back on a swing) because this organizes the sensory system.
I love this Laurie Berckner song because it has minimal instrumentation, a steady 53 beats per minute, and organized movements.
3. Calm or alert.... Sometime kids respond really well to freeze dance.
Depending on the music you pick (download the sensory menu for details) this can support calming and alerting attention. Typical freeze dance rules say: Dance when you hear music. When I pause the music you freeze.
Freeze dance activates parts of the brain associated with impulse control. Who doesn't need more of that?! ;) If you really want to up the challenge do the opposite of the traditional rule: Freeze when the music is playing and dance when the music is paused.
This is a GREAT way to strengthen the parts of the brain used for impulse control!
Now that you understand the importance of the proprioceptive system and know some of the basics about using music to support it...
Here is a free Musical Sensory Menu with 29 ideas for music experiences to help you support your child's focus and attention.
Pair the appropriate music with these experiences several times throughout the day if your child needs extra support to feel grounded and focused.
And don't forget to join them in the fun if you need a little "pick me up", too!
As always, reach out to me if any questions come up! I'm happy to help!
Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about music therapy and how it can support your child.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Noel Anderson is the founder & director of Anderson Music Therapy Services