Sing Away the Blues: The Power of Music on Mental Health in the Early Years

New Year often brings new resolutions as we evaluate what has gone well or could be improved in our lives. The day on which travel agents have found that most people look for or book holidays is now unofficially called “Blue Monday”, coinciding with the end of festivities, and the return to school and work. This year, we also have the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, so instead of singing the blues, we’ll give you reasons and ways to sing away the blues, along with a fantastic musical give-away for your setting!

Research from Mastnak (2020) identified 4 phases of impact that natural disasters had on children’s mental health.

  • Acute phase: lockdowns/closures trigger acute stress or adjustments including insomnia, paranoid traits, disruptive behaviour, fear and suicide
  • Subacute phase: living an adapted lifestyle for a few years led to unhealthy habits, ongoing anxiety, delusional ideas, post-traumatic stress disorder, and regressed development, personal growth, and cognitive factors (concentration, motivation)
  • Post-traumatic phase: + 3 years after the initial event, resulting in self-protective attitudes/personality features, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depressive/avoidant personality traits
  • Effect phase: children may remain symptom-free for decades until adulthood, where the effects could impact the mind and harm quality of life

To counteract these effects, our aim is to help children to learn to regulate their own emotions and immunological health. Medical evidence shows that music positively influences the immune system, benefiting everybody. Singing therapy is already used for respiratory issues like asthma and COPD, while music therapy develops inner calm, rebalances psychosomatic conditions, reduces stress and breaks through obsessive compulsive disorder structures. Analytic and expressive arts transform traumatic events, helping both shy and hostile personalities, while community music therapy improves group immune systems and develops mindfulness.

Practical pointers supporting children through traumatic events:

  1. Positive and negative attitudes depend on the child’s culture, personality, changes, and perceptions of the anticipated future; vulnerable children can be supported in modifying thinking through reassurance and routine.

Mummy loves and daddy loves (Russian lullaby)

Mummy loves and daddy loves and
Everybody loves little baby
Brother loves and sister loves and
Everybody loves little baby

With younger infants, two adults hold either end of a blanket (like a hammock) gently rock the child. Older children can use small blankets or scarves to gently rock a cuddly toy or doll.

  1. Children may exhibit new conditions including social phobias, self-imposed withdrawal, personality disorders, emotionally cold, detached, inappropriate paranoia of contamination by others. Musical games involving nearby, appropriate contact help to refocus and reprioritise personal safe space.

Old Brass Wagon

Circle to the left, old brass wagon
Circle to the left, old brass wagon
Circle to the left, old brass wagon
You’re the one, my darling

Circle to the right, old brass wagon …
Everybody down, old brass wagon …
Everybody in, old brass wagon…

In a circle, perform the actions – walk to the left/right/stand up and crouch down/walk towards the middle and out – and for the final line, point across (“you’re the one”) and hug yourself (“my darling”).

3. Anxiety in children may lead to obsessive compulsive behaviours. Familiar songs set to easy, relaxing exercises can override subconscious self-controlling behaviours.

Twinkle Twinkle

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are

Lying down in a warm, quiet, darkened room, use a torch light to watch its movement on the ceiling. Within covid restrictions, consider giving each child a turn to use the torch.

4. Vulnerable children could see covid regulations as punishment, leading to learned helplessness and dependence. Songs and games involving daily routines can remind and recreate the natural desire to achieve activities independently.

Mulberry Bush

Here we go round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush
Here we go round the mulberry bush
So early in the morning

This is the way we brush our teeth …
This is the way we comb our hair …
This is the way we put on our clothes …
This is the way we eat our food …

Choose actions that children find familiar and easy as well as actions that they may find challenging. Consider breaking down complex actions to allow the routine to become familiar e.g. this is the way we pick up our fork … this is the way we sit at the table …

5. Children may witness extreme ideas or allow their imagination to exaggerate situations. Distinction between reality and imagination can be made using songs and games that make this clear.

Grand Old Duke of York

Oh, the grand old Duke of York
He had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again

And when they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down
And when they were only halfway up
They were neither up nor down

Marching around the room to the beat, pretending to be soldiers, and follow the actions, moving up (tip toes), down (crouching), and halfway (usual walking height).

6. Children may display non-psychotic paranoia and make assumptions from dramatic news headlines which may trigger imaginations. Comforting songs and routines help to remind children of emotional anchors like love and family.

You Are My Sunshine

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

Rock each child, allowing them to feel your heartbeat/vibrations of your singing, or get each child to rock a soft toy or doll.

Research shows the therapeutic and health benefits of discovering “beauty” in the arts. Music is one of the least invasive approaches to improving life. Being aware of how it can be used can help us to use it more effectively.

Mastnak, W. (2020). Psychopathological problems related to the COVID‐19 pandemic and possible prevention with music therapy. Acta Paediatrica.

Discover Musicaliti's Program

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive musical content in your inbox, every month.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive musical content in your inbox, every month.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *