How can music help our children develop healthy emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to understand ones feelings, discern different types of feelings, emphatise with others, and regulate one’s behaviour and thought processes through this awareness.
This term, in our 4-5 year old music class, we have been exploring 2 separate Units entitled “Giggles” and “Feel the Music”.
‘Giggles’ delves into the pre-schoolers emerging sense of humour, which at this age focuses mainly on the idea of incongruency, such as simple puns or word play, or wrongly attributed characteristics, like an owl barking or a camel with 5 humps. What is funny or unfunny is of course very much dependent on a child’s understanding of and corresponding cultural inferences in the world that they live in.
We listened and sang to appropriately matched songs; we danced giddily to fun songs such as ‘Boom boom ain’t it Good to be Crazy’, and our literacy activities focused mainly on jokes, including our very own funny home-made jokes and drawings.
‘Feel the Music’ explores emotions – happy, sad, angry and scared – to name a few. The children love taking class ‘selfies’ on the iPad, each showing their happy face, sad face, angry, scared or sleepy face. They love contorting their faces to make exaggerated expressions – frowning, smirking, scowling, lightening up – they are so willing to explore all sorts of different emotions.
We have been dancing and moving to vastly different music pieces which could draw out different feelings – think ‘The Turkey Reel’ for that fast happy upbeat feel, or ‘Into the Woods’ for that scary spooky feeling.
Both these Units illustrate clearly how much making music or listening to music elicit certain emotional responses from us. Back then and even to this day, composers and songwriters tend to create songs and music to elicit certain emotional responses from their audience.
Research shows that the more children are accepted and supported in exploring and experiencing different types of feelings, the more they are able to navigate and identify ways to deal with their emotions as they grow up.
These past few weeks, I have been amazed at how much the children in my class have embraced the feelings of highs and lows/happy and sad, of freely manipulating their faces and bodies to demonstrate anger or fear, of really listening to the emotive feature of each music piece and responding expressively.
I am humbled by their willingness to talk about feelings, and at such young age, at their depth of understanding of the kind of situations they may encounter where they experience these feelings. They have a generous capacity for empathy with their peers in class, and they are truly on their way to developing and strengthening what I would rightly call as, Emotional Intelligence.