By Sarah Lyding
For all of us who smile when we hear our favorite song, or turn to sad music when we’re feeling low, we understand the power of music. But the fact is that the benefits of music go beyond changing our mood. When children listen, play, or dance to music, they experience a range of benefits for their development and wellbeing. In the summer, when schedules change and the weather heats up, it is a perfect time for families to experiment with new ways to add music to everyday routines.
As the executive director of The Music Man Foundation, I spend my time working to bring music to more people in impactful ways. Our Foundation partners with organizations that are permanently changing the way music is embedded in our schools, health care systems, and communities. We’re laser-focused on this because we’ve seen the research which supports music’s potential to improve lives.
Studies show that children who receive music education achieve better reading and math skills, have stronger social skills and increased self-confidence. Research also finds that participation in the arts strengthens social ties and increases tolerance for others. Of course, we know that dancing and moving to music is also great exercise and relieves stress!
I’m often asked how families can bring more music into their lives. As a mom of two, here are a few easy ways we incorporate music into daily activities:
1. Have a 5-minute dance party
When you turn up the music, kids tend to come to life. Many younger kids will move with enthusiasm, but if you have jaded teens or pre-teens, try classic dances like “The Electric Slide” or “Cupid Shuffle,” or learn new routines popular on social media. As they move to the music, they won’t even realize they’re getting a good workout, too!
2. Use music to move kids between activities
When school’s out and regular routines go out the window, emotions can run high. Music can be a powerful tool to help kids relieve stress and adapt to changes. Spark creativity by making up silly songs about what’s happening, like getting ready for bed, doing chores, or starting bathtime.
3. Make your own instruments
Turn pots and pans into drums. Put rubber bands over a cereal box to make a string instrument. Recreate beats from a favorite song, or get inspired and improvise an original tune.
4. Choose musicals for a family movie night
We love “The Music Man” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” by Meredith Willson, in whose honor The Music Man Foundation was established. “The Wizard of Oz,” “Annie,” “Hamilton” and “Sister Act” are other great, family-friendly options. Sing along to the music for double the fun.
5. Take a picnic to a free summer concert
We’re lucky to have free summer concerts in locations across the Los Angeles region. Check out Grand Performances at California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles, or jazz at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Bring a picnic and connect with friends and family over the music. An added benefit – listening to new kinds of music engages the brain in different ways.
At the Foundation, we know that music is an incredible force for good for people of all ages, and for families, neighborhoods and even entire cities. We’re working to bring the benefits of music to our public schools, health care system, justice system, and older adults. But a meaningful introduction to music begins at home, as part of one’s culture and family traditions. These tips are just a starting point to add music to daily routines to feel better and see improvements to mood, health and relationships!
Sarah Lyding is executive director of The Music Man Foundation, a Los Angeles-based charitable foundation which has invested over $22 million in more than 80 nonprofits that are working to bring music to more people. The Music Man Foundation, named after the Tony-winning musical written by Meredith Willson, was started by Meredith’s wife Rosemary Wilson. In addition to “The Music Man,” Meredith Willson wrote the music and lyrics for the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” and beloved songs “It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas” and the University of Iowa fight song.