Music and Self-Regulation


I had a really great Thanksgiving, and I hope you all did too! But coming back to reality after a handful of days off with family is hard. And now, I find that I’m feeling pretty homesick. So to take care of myself I’m listening to a little Bill Evans, and drinking tea by our little Christmas tree. YAS that sounds amazing, right? Right. Unless you don’t like jazz, tea, or you don’t celebrate Christmas. Which is all fine, but then sub in your favorite things. Have you mentally filled in  your favorite self-care activities? Now it sounds good right? Right.

While the holidays can be a truly joyful time filled with delicious food, family time, sparkly lights, candles, hot chocolate and iceskating it can also be a very overwhelming time for children and adults alike! If you’re a parent, teacher, or anyone who spends a lot of time with kids you know that from Thanksgiving to New Years kids sort of lose their minds. But let’s step back and remember that when we were children, we too and had a hard time reigning in our excited energy during this time. And now let’s think further about how we as adults can also lose it during this time.

So now I’m gonna bring it full circle and talk about Bill Evans for a second. I choose Bill Evans because his music reminds me of my family and the people I love most. Music has a way of doing that doesn’t it? So even if you don’t agree with my musical taste (that’s fine but you’re crazy) you probably agree that music can guide your mood. Music can be a GREAT way to help kids regulate their emotions. This is especially helpful during the holiday season when emotions are running high all around.

You can use music to:

  • Help a child calm down at bedtime with classical or soothing playlists.
  • Find a song about something they are learning about and  add it to their lessons. This adds relevance AND  is especially  beneficial for our auditory learners.
  • Build specific songs into routines to cue children and make a mundane task more fun.
  • Cheer them up by playing their favorite music.
  • Get them pumped up by playing upbeat music.

I used music in my classroom in a lot of different ways:

  • Playing a specific song during an activity helped my students time their activity once they became familiar with the song. Time management? Check.
  • Playing relaxing music during silent reading at a low level kept the energy level low and the environment calm.
  • Morning songs welcomed the kids into the classroom and cued them to begin their day.
  • I sang to them at the end of the day as they packed up their backpacks. (Obviously I sang them a few jazz tunes). This was handy because it did two wonderful things. First, it kept them focused because they knew how long they had to pack up before I was finished with the songs. Second, it made for a happy end of the day. By the end of the year they sang along (which kept down the distracting chatter and bolstered our sense of community).

So the lesson here is that the holidays can be hard and that’s OK. Perhaps try to be purposeful about your music choice during this holiday season and see if it helps regulate everyone’s emotions.

In case you’re curious about Bill Evans, just click the link for a little taste of his stuff. And here is an article if you’re motivated to learn more: “3 Musical Ways to Influence a Child’s Emotions”

The joy of learning. Together.