June 2, 2020
Normal has changed! For my family, the new normal includes my husband and me working full-time from home while caring for and educating our 3.5-year-old son. Even though we are approaching the 3-month mark of the stay-at-home order, we are still getting used to the shift in our day-to-day routines, roles, and responsibilities. Meanwhile, our son is still adjusting to being without classmates, friends, teachers, and his prior pre-school days packed with engaging activities.
One thing that has not changed is the constant presence of music in our home. Music enriches every part of our lives, and now, more than ever, I find myself turning to music for a burst of joy, energy, and an authentic way to engage with my young son.
Typically, my little one loves to find sticks outside to ‘drum’ on a variety of surfaces like aluminum trash cans, the kitchen countertop, or a glass-topped table. Upon finding sounds he really likes, he exclaims, “Did you hear that?!” Without even meaning to, he makes patterns with the sounds and, in his own way, conducts sound experiments as he “drums.” With that in mind, we recently embarked upon making a homemade xylophone!
To begin, I asked my son to find 5 different glasses from our cupboard. We carried them into the living room, and carefully arranged them in a line. He arranged the glasses a few different ways before he found the arrangement that he liked best, at which point he said, “I’m READY!” I invited him to pour different amounts of water into each glass. As he did this, he said things like, “This one has so much. This one is medium. This one has a little.”
Next, I talked with him about the different water levels and how those levels might affect the sounds he could make when tapping the glasses. I suggested he choose a few different utensils from the kitchen drawer for tapping. When he returned with a spatula, plastic spoon, butter knife, and a metal spoon, I reminded him to tap very carefully, especially with the metal items, to prevent breakage. He chose to play the “xylophone” using the plastic spoon first, and after a few tentative and gentle taps, he became more confident. After a few minutes, he looked up and said, “It sounds like Jingle Bells!” Although he had not heard that song in months, he sang the chorus repeatedly as he played the xylophone!
After singing for a bit, he embarked upon another exploration. He put the metal spoon inside one of the glasses (and, eventually, he did the same with the spatula and the knife). He wanted to know if the glasses would make different sounds when he added a utensil to the water. As he worked, I asked, “Did you like that sound better with or without the spoon in the water?” Before answering, he put a utensil in, tapped and listened, then took the utensil out and tapped and listened. He continued this with all the glasses and all the utensils, then dismissed me so he could play independently with the xylophone.
Our homemade xylophone prompted independent play, exploration, observations, listening skills, recognition of patterns and measurements, and so much FUN! When he finished his exploration, he invited me to join him. He played the tune “The Wheels on the Bus,” and we sang it together!
I will continue playing music throughout our home each day, and I look forward to sharing more ‘musical moments’ that my son and I enjoy together. (But, please, don’t tell him that he’s learning while he plays!)