Brainy way to bring a song to your, and your kids’, lips

IF YOU'VE ever heard yourself singing nursery rhymes to your kids and been embarrassed at your bad singing, or awful sense of rhythm, music therapist Kathy Butcher has a message for you.

Keep doing it. As often as you can.

Mrs Butcher has worked as a registered music therapist for the past 14 years, and says the interaction is the key to a child's learning.

"Music gives parents a great way to interact with their children," she said.

"Whether it's little nursery rhymes we know, or even something you make up, it allows them to have fun, and they will respond straight away."

Music therapy, says Mrs Butcher, is different to traditional music lessons as well, where the outcome is not for the child to develop musical skills or learn instruments, but instead achieve goals through music.

"Music can help with almost anything," she said.

"It also allows us to be positive, so if for example we're trying to teach children to wait, we can sing something about waiting, and the parents can repeat it and use it as a positive reinforcement rather than just rousing on them."

The benefits are not just restricted to children either, with Mrs Butcher's work also extending to the older generations.

"We do work with people in aged care, and especially those with dementia," she said.

"Music opens up more pathways in the brain than just talking, which is why people who have suffered a stroke can often sing, but not talk - so the therapy is beneficial for them as well."

Mrs Butcher is part of the 'Sing and Grow' program which runs nationally, and says the program that runs at the South Grafton Playgroup has had a great response.

"When the music starts the kids come straight over and sit down. They want to be involved in it," she said.

"They do simple activities like group work which gives them social skills, and even things like singing their own name give them a sense of pride and self-esteem."

Mrs Butcher's career path came from being a professional musician in the RAAF band in Sydney, and she continues to evolve and learn, and will attend the World Congress of Music Therapy in Vienna later in the year to further develop creative methods for the children.

As for any tips for off-key singing, Mrs Butcher says it's simple.

"We may not like it, but the kids absolutely don't care," she said.

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