The idea of music as treatment for illnesses is older than Aristotle, and despite being considered an “alternative” method, music therapy is an effective treatment grounded in research. Much of this study revolves around medical problems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is of growing concern to parents. You’ve all seen the toddler who won’t sit still, who climbs over the furniture or who doesn’t quite grasp the concept of his “indoor voice.” While serious conditions like ADHD do warrant the help of a professional and certified music therapist, there are some tricks you can use at home for your hyper toddler.
Music as Structure
If you’ve ever studied music or you can remember your grade school music classes, you know music is based on math and follows various structures. Think about your favorite song — it has a clear beginning, middle and end. Hyper toddlers can pick up on this structure and use music to anticipate certain things and react to them. During a freeze dance, for example, the singer often announces, “get ready to freeze,” and when toddlers hear the word “freeze” they know exactly what to do. Songs like these help with impulse control and improve listening skills. Singing a song while cleaning up or just before bedtime helps your child realize a routine that is about to happen; the song is the preparation, and your toddler can react to it.
Even if you and your toddler are two peas in a pod, you can strengthen his social skills, an area in which hyper children often struggle, through musical activities. Improvise some music on drums, keyboards or other instruments you own. Do a call-and-response-style improvisation in which you play something and ask your toddler to answer back to it with music (no talking allowed!). This activity helps your hyper toddler take turns and listen to what you’re doing — important skills for social interaction. You can also use music as a background for other tasks you and your toddler do together. Writing a story together and setting it to music works on interaction skills, and helps your toddler focus and reduce hyperactive behavior.
You might know the concept of Namaste from yoga class, but all your hyper toddler knows is he wants to run, jump and yell around the house. Music does not always have to be active, and just listening to music can help you relax. Music has a pulse and a feeling, and choosing slow music can help your hyper toddler calm down. Use music as a distraction, particularly if you have to wait with your toddler; hyper children rarely sit still, but diverting your toddler with music gives him something else to focus on.
Screaming like a banshee and the frustrating inability to get your toddler to “use his words” are instances you know too well. You might be surprised to find that what your toddler won’t speak, he will sing. Encourage your toddler to sing about what he’s doing. Write your own songs about how to say “please” and “thank you” and practice them with your toddler. Sing nursery rhymes or other favorite tunes together; never underestimate the power singing songs together has for building the parent and child bond.