mainly music Blog

  • I’ve never taken much note of the claims cleaning products make but when you’re looking along the supermarket shelves, you being to wonder about what you read.

    The claims give the impression that mould and grime, window streaks and dirty marks will disappear the moment they see the cleaning product poised for action. Forget elbow grease – that went out with the last century. Forget your grandmother’s recipe for stain removal – that’s been superseded with chemicals in a bottle.

    I got thinking about this at the same time as I was facilitating a parenting course and I began to think about our expectations. We microwave our food; we drive through for our take out; we check our bank account for our ‘real time’ balance; and that product we ordered, it arrived before the weekend.

    All this speed and little effort spills over, unconsciously, to other areas of our life.

    We expect parenting skills to be applied with no elbow grease. We try a new idea and become disappointed when our child’s behaviour hasn’t changed in 24 hours. 24 hours? Like within the moment.

    And yet, deep down we know from personal experience that change takes time.

    And if we’re a little reflective, we recognise that a little elbow grease applied in the form of perseverance and effort actually results in a job well done, in a skill learned, or in our character being formed.

    Our pain-free, elbow grease-less, ‘now’ world actually needs a little pain, a smattering of elbow grease and some extra time to ensure we and our children grow character, achieve goals and make a difference.

    As parents, we need to slow cook our parenting and give time for those changes to take place. When we persevere, our children realise we mean what we’ve said. So become a broken record. Don’t budge even when the tantrums occur. Apply elbow grease. Your life will become better for it … in the long term.

  • It’s just occurred to me that we’re going back in time.

    I’m not much into history but I have been thinking recently about historical ways of life after seeing the movie, Suffragette.

    Throw into the mix one of my children having a chat to me about self-value. “Mum”, he said, “tell me how valuable am I to you?”

    Along with the constant awareness I have of children sitting in trolleys or buggies with electronic devices; observed at meal tables when we’re out; or seen in cars on journeys [where, let’s face it, there are windows so they can see what is going on in the world].

    Put this all together … and what have we got?

    I think we have a new way of ensuring children are ‘seen and not heard’.

    We’ve gone back in time. We’ve gone back to a time of life that we look back at and say, “Wouldn’t want life to be like it was for our grandparents.” And yet we’re now partially in that place.

    All too often, we give our children an electronic device to stop them making noise [and they’ve worked out ‘noise’ gets them the electronic device] while we’re out and about. This stops us from having conversations about the world and how it works. This stops us having conversations with our children. This stops us talking about life and what matters to us.

    What did I answer to my son’s question? How much I loved his attention, how I delighted in his opinions, how I valued his stories and more – I’m not going to give detail because that was a conversation between him and me. But how could I answer his question? We have had shared time, chatting, wrestling with issues, talking through ‘what if’s?’, asking tough stuff – together. He’s in his twenties and back when he was growing up, there weren’t devices to hand over. We talked at the table. We chatted in the car. We conversed while we journeyed through life.

    As someone in another phase of ‘family’ to those of you in the pre-school and primary years, can I encourage you to think about the place of ‘the device’ in your lives? It does have a place. But is the use of devices causing your children to be ‘seen and not heard’?


  • Ever been asked, ‘How’s the work-life balance going?’

    Personally I find this question unachievable. Just when you get the ‘balance’ right in the work area, a family situation occurs and work has to take back seat and family takes the focus. Or a massive deadline looms and family don’t get the same level of dedication and time as you prefer.

    I prefer the question, ‘How’s the work-life tension going?’

    if you’re stressed with work or life not going well, maybe it’s time to make a review. And it can happen easily using the illustration of an everyday product providing an everyday service. Elastic.

    It holds up our undies and those trackies. It’s been modified and appears as Lycra or Spandex. It’s a part of our everyday life.

    Too tight and we can’t function. Too loose and everything falls around our ankles. Too tight and we immediately think, ‘No more donuts’. Too slack and we think perhaps we CAN have another chocolate.

    But elastic works best when it’s taut. A bit like life’s tensions.

    When we have the integration right, we enjoy getting up in the morning. Another day of challenge, not exhaustion. Another chance to build into our relationships rather than be frazzled by them. Life can be ‘full on’ without being ‘flat out’.

    However, it takes energy and time to stand still and evaluate. Sometimes it’s easier to keep moving and kid ourselves into the fact that this is the way it has to be.

    But if we stand still long enough and logically consider the options, engage our heart to see what is really happening, and make change, we’ll release time and energy into our lives.

    There are times when some parts of our life are affected by the pressures we put ourselves through – things that don’t really have to happen. They only stretch the elastic of life. And when elastic stretches for too long; it slowly loses its spring. The fibres snap. And the bounce back … well, it doesn’t.

    There are other times when some parts of our life become extremely tight. Like when a child is sick. Or when you or your partner lose a job. Or when a close family member dies. These are times when we need to give ourselves some slack in other areas. Saying ‘no’ to invitations that will be offered another year or another time is okay. Finding a way to keep the house at an acceptable level of tidy or clean; rather than a perfection level.

    Someone wise once said, “It’s not truth that changes people; its truth applied.”

    We know aspects of our life need a change. But if we don’t apply what we know, the tension of our lives will become unmanageable and that often causes a ‘snap’.

    Tension … Taut but not stretched and like elastic, the tension will be at its best.

    Remaining in the tension of a fulfilling life is the great excitement of life.

  • The message that the first few years of life are extremely important for brain development is becoming more widely known. What may be less clear is how to put this knowledge into practise. Parents wanting to give their child the best start are faced with a huge variety of choice and much commercially-driven pressure to ensure that their child makes the most of this developmental opportunity. The bewildering number of toys and activities currently available for our babies and young children is enough to send parents’ cortisol levels into orbit. And that’s before the credit card bill arrives.

    Children need stimulation, but as with many things, moderation is key. More is not necessarily better. Many children today are at risk of being over-stimulated or over-scheduled and this can actually impede rather than encourage their optimal brain development.

    During the first years of a child’s life it is play, not scheduled instruction that contributes the most to brain development (Frost, 1998). We don’t need to formally “teach” our young children in order for them to learn. Children have their own interests and by being supported to follow these they are likely to be getting the stimulation that they need.

    Play provides a wonderful opportunity for parent and child to have fun together, deepening their relationship. Children also need opportunities for some play on their own, this provides many opportunities to develop their imagination, problem-solve and develop other skills that are less likely to develop in adult-directed play. At times, boredom may provide the impetus for the child to make their own discoveries and create their own fun, fantastic life skills and great stimulation for a growing brain.

    Simple toys that allow children to use their imagination and creativity have many benefits over the endless plastic creations currently available (Ginsburg, 2007). Blocks, play dough, a sandpit, versatile dress-ups (as opposed to Disney inspired ones), crayons and paper provide endless options. Household objects such as boxes, blankets, pots and pans can also provide many hours of fun and learning. The toys and activities that offer the most stimulation for a growing brain often don’t have the “educational” label on them!

    Learning and brain development is not limited to toys and activities specifically created for children, but also by following their interests in participating in the real world. Household activities that most adults consider work are also rich with opportunities for learning. Hanging out the washing, baking, grocery shopping and weeding the garden provide many opportunities for exploration and learning - and while the task inevitably takes longer, it can be much more fun for the adult too.

    Everyday life is full of naturally occurring learning opportunities. Watching the rubbish truck, road works, rain going down the drain, or a rainbow, can capture the interest of a child when shared with a parent. Take time to stop, observe, and talk with your child about the things happening around them, and when possible move on only when your child’s interest is waning. Be confident in the knowledge that you have just provided them with the stimulation they need, and it didn’t cost a cent!

    Rich sensory experiences that are so vital for optimal brain development are readily available in nature. Playing with the sand at the beach, feeling the bark on trees, smelling flowers, or listening to birds singing, enjoyed with a loving parent all provide stimulation prompting brain connections to form. Sensory experiences can be a messy business and children benefit from being able to enjoy such experiences fully, without anyone worrying about the washing!

    Playful, creative children who have had plenty of unscheduled, non-screen (TV, computer etc) time for play throughout their early years, are more likely to arrive at school with their natural curiosity intact, and a strong desire to learn that will benefit them more than those whose infancy and pre-school years have been filled with scheduled activities and little time for play.

    Written by: Keryn O’Neill, MA PGCertEdPsych Brainwave Trust Researcher and Educator

    You might want to check this out on the Brainwave Trust site:


    Fancourt, R. (2000) Brainy Babies. Penguin: NZ. Farquhar, S.E. (2005) The role of Parents and Family in Children’s Early Education. Keynote presented to the International HIPPY Symposium, Auckland 22nd September 2005. Available at Accessed 28/04/09.

    Frost, J.L. (1998) Neuroscience, play and child development. Paper presented at the IPA/USA Triennial National Conference, June 1998. Available at Accessed 28/04/09.

    Ginsburg , K.R.(2007) The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds. Pediatrics, Vol 119, Number 1, January 2007. Available at Accessed 3/05/09.

    Perry, B.D. (Date unknown) The Importance of Pleasure in Play. Available at ttp:// Accessed 28/04/09.

    Perry, B.D., Hogan, L. & Marlin, S.J. (2000) Curiosity, Pleasure and Play: A Neurodevelopmental Perspective. Available at Accessed 1/05/09.

    Perry, B.D. & Szalavitz, M. (2006) The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog. Basic Books: New York.

  • Depending on the age and stage of your children, here are some ideas for a fun morning or afternoon activity these Christmas holidays.

    All children love to help you cook – if you have the patience, bread making can be a satisfying event because the kneading is not only good for time spent together but it’s also great for building strength in your child’s fingers and hands. Give your child the chance to be creative as they knot the bread or decorate it with cheese, salami, tomatoes and more. Even small children can participate in bread making.

    Decorate some cookies – buy some plain cookies or biscuits from the store and decorate them into faces. Talk with your child about how a sad face would look, a happy face, a pink face, a blue face … get them thinking creatively!

    Play hair dressers – time to get out the dolls, the shampoo, the blow dryer, the magazines, the clips and the hair ties. Ensure the scissors stay hidden!

    Use the hallway as a bowling alley - soft toys or plastic tumblers can become targets. A soft ball your bowling ball – and away you go.

    Have a puppet show – time to match all the sock in the house. Anything that has no pair becomes a ‘sock puppet’. Glue fabric, wool, string, or cardboard – anything that will fix to the sock as a decoration. Have your puppets talk to each other. Read a story and let the puppets act it out.

    If it’s summer where you live, a bucket of water and a paint brush. Child love to paint pictures on the path or the fence. This is a ‘low mess’ play option.

    More outdoor time can be fun with outdoor chalk [pavement chalk] – play tic-tac-toe, draw a scene on the path, or draw roads for the bikes.

    If it’s cold where you live, wrap up warmly and go for a walk, collecting items along the way for a collage picture or sand garden made at home. When you go for a walk with your child, look for things to talk about – the colour of a leaf, the way an insect walks, the sound of a bird or the speed of a vehicle. This time together can be more than a physical exercise.

    Pick up items that could be used for a craft activity – a collage, an indoor garden, leaf rubbings, or a print. To make a collage, bring out the glue and make a picture on card. To create an indoor garden, place play dough on a plate or plastic lid and stand the leaves and twigs upright. Place a sheet of paper over the leaves and lightly draw over each leaf to create a picture. To make a print, glue the items on card, paint over, then place paper over and press down. When you remove the paper, you’ll find you’ve made a print.

  • Christmas is a wonderful time for traditions. Start them while your children are young, keep them happening year after year, and look back on treasured family time in the years to come.


    Keep a Christmas decoration box – While your toddler may seem light years away from being a young adult, now is the time to find a beautiful storage box. Buy a special Christmas decoration each year, used on your tree. Include a photo in the box of your child standing next to the Christmas tree with that decoration in view or being held by them. When your child leaves home, send them off with a box of decorations and photos that have special meaning to them.


    Keep a box of Christmas books under the tree – Collect Christmas books that you store under the Christmas tree, making them the subject of bed time stories during December. Maybe you have a collection of mainly music Christmas books! Perhaps you have others you have collected or were treasured books from your childhood. Start a tradition this year that will carry into the years ahead.


    Involve your children in this year’s Christmas cards and wrapping. Sure, email cards are fun. But how about creating some for family members? Have a special drawing session where you provide card and drawing items. Using triangle shaped card, buttons and wool can create delightful Christmas trees to then fix onto a card. Using brown paper [often you can purchase this in rolls for packaging] children can create wrapping paper for your gifts.


    Do you live in a city or town where residents feature Christmas lighting decorations on their homes or in their gardens? Perhaps you live in the country where the lights are out night after night in the sky … that’s stars! Why not create some special traditions where you bundle the children into the car, in their night clothing and view the lights or stars? Talk about light – how it can’t be stopped by the dark but instead how dark is always overcome by light. Talk about the very first Christmas where one light stood out and indicated in which city Jesus was born.


    One tradition some families enjoy each year is the purchasing of a gift that can be passed onto families doing life tough. Operation Christmas Child is one such organisation – fill a shoe box with goodies that will opened around Christmas. Another is to buy a gift for families attending mainly music in conjunction with our Excluded Communities initiative. Give your children the perspective of giving at Christmas rather than getting.

  • Each time you come to mainly music, the songs and rhymes are providing your child with learning opportunities.


    Social and co-operative skills – Children ‘parallel-play’ for a long time. You’ll see them, side-by-side, moving the cars, cuddling the dolls, or digging in the sandpit. And then they learn they can move the cars to each other and share the dolls between them. Social and co-operative skills form the basis for working in teams.

    At mainly music – The Lycra panel and parachute songs encourage children to work with others. ‘You lift up and I’ll lift up – together we’ll make the parachute rise UP!’ Assist your child by having them face you or join hands with you when a song or rhyme features actions that can be done together. Initially they’ll participate best when their big person is participating with them.

    Encouraging your child to delight in seeing other children take a prop at the front and stay there helps your child understand ‘taking turns’. Going to the front with your child, instead of saying, ‘she’s shy’, assists your child to gain confidence in a social setting.

    Why is this important? As children grow and develop, they will start to become more involved in team work. Some of our learning systems are created around collaborative learning. Within business, there are times when we need to work collaboratively. If children don’t learn at a young age how to respect others, how to put forward their own thoughts, how to celebrate the ideas others bring to the group, they will flounder in a collaborative learning or working environment.


    Social skills bring about resiliency. They are linked to the milestones in normal development. Gaining a level of confidence in a group setting prepares children for the world ahead. A child will begin to share and take turns. Learning this at mainly music can be as simple as coming forward to hold a prop and being the one who watches others do this because we’re letting them have a turn. Understanding turn taking contributes to a child’s management of physical aggression.


    Marching is an exercise that helps your child develop many skills. Find a piece of rhythmic music and show your child how to use their arms and legs to march according to the beat. Encourage them to use their body correctly to make the most of the activity. Once mastered, use the marching to develop directionality.


    At home – make a pattern on the floor to follow through – to the window, then the door, to the front of the room … you get the idea. Start the music and have your child follow the pattern. Rhythm and repetition are required for learning. Watch how your child manages the turns. If struggling, practice some more until you see this happening smoothly. Each time you do this, make a game of it! Now remove any markings you have placed on the floor and give verbal instructions. This is helping your child follow instructions.

  • How will you do it? Maybe when Christmas comes you’ll fall into the trap of calling it the ‘silly season’. Perhaps you’ll close your eyes and dream it was all over in a flash. Like it or hate it – Christmas is on its way.
  • Have you heard that word? It starts with a ‘b’. Maybe you say it. Maybe your friends say it. Have you heard your child say it too, particularly when they are role playing with their toys? Being busy is a phrase we’ve all bought into. If we take some time out to refresh, that busy word gets in the way. The more we say it, the more we sense our lives are out of control.
  • Each time you come to mainly music, the songs and rhymes are providing your child with learning opportunities. Crossing the central line or mid line – If you run a line from your nose to your tummy button … keep going down to between your ankles – that’s the central line. If you run a line around your waist – between your top half and your bottom half – that’s also a central line. Move your left hand over to touch your right hip – you’ve crossed the central line. When you’re little, those movements are key learning points for your brain. They help you develop reading and writing skills.
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Fires, floods and other nasties
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Fires, floods and other nasties
If there has been a natural (or man made) disaster in your country, like fires, floods or even terrorism, and you'd like to support the groups in that area, depending which country you give from, we'll make sure these groups get help. The money will go to celebration items (like Christmas books or birthday gifts) and financial support of the local groups affected.
Families at risk
We're connecting with families who don't always see the value of mainly music sessions first off - but when they attend other services provided by agencies and participate, their smiles return as they connect with their child. It fills mum's life and develops the bond with her children.
Bring connection during Covid-19
We have many stories where mothers say, "I went to my GP. I was told to go on medication. I found mainly music. I don't need medication at all." Post natal depression, social isolation, anxiety along with Covid-19 restrictions can stop anyone in their tracks. Contributing to this fund from anywhere in the world will help those mainly music groups who are struggling financially.
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