Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.

 
 
 
 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

Playing With The Box

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It's an old story - you give a child a present, and he plays with the box. Boxes are great toys, because they have interesting properties and almost no identifying features. You can carry things in them and hide things in them. When they are big enough, you can even hide in them. They are light enough to stack and carry and even throw with ease! They can be buildings or caves, cages for animals, spaceships for aliens - and because they don’t look like anything in particular, they can easily switch identities. Boxes are containers for the imagination – because they are mostly empty space.

What gives children the ideas with which to fill the empty space? Life, of course. The conversations they have and overhear, the relationships they have and observe with each other, siblings, parents, teachers, bus drivers, neighbors, everyone they come in contact with. During the empty spaces of their lives, they notice the things around them. They internalize this information, and it comes out into the world through play. When they play, they are using everything they have – their hands, their eyes, their ears, their bodies, objects around them – to create something new, something that gives them ownership of their world.

But what happens if there are no empty spaces? When the child never has to observe or notice anything that isn’t flashing across a screen a few inches from his eyes?

The other day, I was enjoying some empty space, waiting on a bench in the hallway of an apartment building. It was interesting to listen to the bits of one-sided conversations that got louder down the invisible hallways as people talked to their cell phones. Sometimes, they would turn the corner and I’d see what they looked like. When they reached the elevator, sometimes we’d exchange pleasantries.

I didn’t talk to a family of three who came to the elevator – a father, a mother, and a child of about seven. The boy trailed slowly behind his parents, his eyes on a video playing on the open I-Pad he held in his hands. The loud, insistent soundtrack was turned up high. The mother said to him, “How is your nose?” The boy didn’t answer or even look up. She turned toward the father, who was pressing the down button. “We have to do something about his nose,” she said. She turned back to the boy. “How is your nose?” she said again.  The elevator came, they got in, and door closed in front of the pageant – the father looking up at nothing, the mother talking to the child glued to his I-Pad.

What interested me most was that the mother didn’t even seem annoyed – she merely talked to her son as if he were hearing her. It was surreal.

Mea culpa – I fight the device fight with my teenager all the time. This fight is not anything I would want anyone reading this to see up close and personal. You could say, it’s just adolescence. But it’s adolescence with a culturally sanctioned addictive habit. The only “substance” at play is media, but that is still scary. I know that even seven years ago, before laptops and smartphones and Facebook were the norm, parenting him would not be have been this hard. Constant access creates constant distraction and constant craving for more distraction.

It would be easy for me to dismiss that mom in the elevator, but I have been close enough to that situation myself to have compassion. We had no way of understanding what these devices would be like to live with when they first started creeping into our lives. Yet now, they are everywhere. Kids can’t even do or hand in homework any more without them. And holding the line and keeping appropriate boundaries is a Herculean (or maybe a Junovian) enterprise.

I see parents – including myself - making the mistake of letting things get away from them. If I were starting over now, think I’d just not have any device play at all before the age of seven. And I’d restrict the hours and the input to a bare minimum. When I was a kid, my parents allowed a half hour of TV a night. That seems reasonable. After the age of seven.

So don’t give in to the ease of quieting a child with a phone or an I-Pad. It’s not worth it. A child who can entertain him or herself with a few ordinary objects and the contents of his or her own mind is a healthy child.

From my parenting station here at the end of childhood, I conclude that it’s really important to frontload early childhood with empty spaces – times when nothing is happening except observation and relationship – times without any media interruption. And to do lots of interesting, multi-sensory, communicative things in front of our children, and with our children. To do the kinds of things that can be done with an empty box and a little imagination.

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