by Lara Levitan
For many parents, limiting screen time is a never-ending battle. We know that too much can be alienating and addictive, but to our kids it’s just plain fun.
Because on average, tweens spend an average of 4.5 hours a day on screen media. For teens the number is even higher.
But we also know this: kids love music.
Which got us thinking. How can we peel our kids away from their devices for some irresistible musical activities? Sure we can set limits and use reward systems, but we can also have some fun.
Here’s what we came up with:
1. Have a dance party.
We’re not talking decorations, invitations, and formal wear, people. We’re talking spontaneous, floor-stomping hoe-downs in the comfort of your own kitchen. The key? Don’t ask your kids first. Lead by example. Turn up the tunes and go for it. Even if your kids roll their eyes and refuse to join, at least you’ll have had a chance to shake it off.
2. Go to a music store just to play around.
Music stores are like musical playgrounds full of discovery and possibility. Your piano-playing kid might find unexpected joy within the sticks of a xylophone or the cymbals of a drum kit. (Just be sure to avoid the “May I Help You Riff”…)
3. See a concert.
With the weather warming up, daytime outdoor festivals abound. Bonus points if you go to a performance by your kid’s music teacher!
4. Speaking of concerts, host your own!
A family concert, that is. Tell your kid that, in the prehistoric era before TVs and computers, families used to entertain each other with singing and musical performance. This could be especially helpful practice if your kid has a recital coming up.
5. Family karaoke night
Do a little research and you’re sure to find a restaurant or bar that offers early, family-friendly karaoke. If not, sing-along karaoke CDs and DVDs are easy to find. Behind the facade of goofy fun, karaoke offers mucho educational benefits.
6. Go hunting for musical instruments–in the house!
The challenge: find unconventional household “instruments” and demonstrate how they’re played, e.g. running a thumb over the tines of a comb. A great activity for young children, musical instrument hunting broadens kids’ understanding of what music is and how it can be made.
7. Play Rhythm Machine.
An idea we borrowed from a super-creative music teacher, Rhythm Machine may work best for
families of four or more. The rules:
- Sit in a circle. One person starts the Rhythm Machine by doing a simple rhythm that repeats over and over.
- The person sitting to the left of the starter then adds a rhythm to go along with the rhythms that are already going. The rhythm has to repeat and cannot change.
- When everyone has added a rhythm, listen for a few measures.
- The first person will then stop doing their rhythm. Listen for a moment, and then the second person drops out. It continues until the last person is the only rhythm.
It’s fascinating to listen to how the sound changes. Players learn that a song consists of many parts working together, and that one part can make a big difference.
Let’s keep the ideas coming. What are your ideas for musical non-screen time?