What are the Unique Benefits of Singing Jo & Co?
Research shows that by the age of three, a child’s brain has developed by 80%. Stimulation and socialisation are vital in those early years for a child to develop age appropriate linguistic, emotional, creative and physical skills. It has recently been reported of the important role early education and care have in producing positive long-term development and learning outcomes.
The music, dance, drama and movement in our sessions provides the environment for these skills to develop. For some of the children who attend, it is a vital ‘early intervention’ that they might not otherwise be able to access. An MP in the UK, commissioned by the Government to write a report entitled ‘Early Intervention’ said “To establish the right environment for those aged 0-3 years old is to seize the earliest, best and most inexpensive chance to have an impact on a child’s development and, therefore, improve social capability and emotional capacity.”
More recently, a headline in the Daily Mail stated the UK Education Minister saying “Pupils Aged 5 Can’t Talk Properly”. He called it a worrying trend of five year olds turning up to school unable to use the simple words and phrases needed to interact with teachers and classmates. He also quoted “The earliest years are where there is the greatest leverage for improving social mobility and improving children’s opportunity to fulfil their potential”.
Through various sections in our sessions, for example, our ‘magic box’ session, toddlers and children learn to sit and listen and are encouraged to share their ideas and thoughts independently. They either sit on their own as their confidence grows, or the very young ones will sit with whoever is with them. Toddlers and children also learn about empathy, sharing and how to deal with new and varied challenges. Early exposure to these new situations which they will have to deal with through their childhood ultimately leads to them becoming more confident, developing skills to make them happier and more resilient. We are more than aware at Singing Jo & Co of how important resilience is for our mental health. It’s a life skill we aim to promote for not only youngsters but to show parents how important it is to teach these skills and how children learn from adults and their peers.
In addition, there are no other groups that provide a singing group for such a wide breadth of ages. Often parents like to attend sessions as a family and not have to contend with age groupings such as 0-2 years, 2-4 years etc. On occasions, we can have four generations of a family at one session! Two grandmothers of the same child recently made a donation and said it was wonderful that they were made to feel so welcome and that they could all attend together.
We have also received many comments from parents who are on maternity leave expressing their gratitude for our groups as they can turn up to any of the sessions, at any location without having to pre-book or pay in advance for a block booking, which is very common for other singing groups. It gives them the vital flexibility when they have a new baby. Further, lots of parents and family members enjoy being able to bring nieces and nephews along when they are visiting the Island from various parts of the world. With all the above in mind, we succeed in providing a very relaxed and informal singing group with the emphasis on ‘fun for everyone’ whilst learning at the same time. Furthermore, we are unique in that we offer the sessions free of charge and ask only for a donation.
How Does Our Group Benefit The Community?
Our group promotes a greater sense of wellbeing and belonging across the socio-economic structure. It is an opportunity for parents and grandparents to bond with their child and share the positive experience of singing. We encourage friendships, relationships and build confidence. We help our second language English speakers who have arrived from different countries. We focus on preventing social isolation and are a centre-point for advice and support. We are an all-inclusive group. All are welcome including babies, children and adults with additional needs. We are proud of our strong community spirit and actively promote the wellbeing of all.
The impact of the reduction in Early Years provision on the Island cannot be underestimated and Singing Jo and Co continue to play a vital role within this area. We provide a very visible and tangible service within the Manx community.
Furthermore, since September, 2018, my team and I have been discussing if there were any additional ways in which we could give back to our local communities and looked at how we could involve elderly people within our sessions. We noticed in particular an article about “Singing for the Brain” which is run by the Alzheimer’s Society and this aims to boost confidence, self esteem and quality of life by involving people with dementia in interactive sing-song sessions. We contacted a care home in Peel and invited residents along. It was a huge success, not only for the elderly people that came along, but also our parents found it very up-lifting. We had one lady with dementia who was thrilled when two of our three year olds, held our pretend birthday cake and sang happy birthday to her. Also, we loved seeing a 98 year old lady shaking maracas to the Hokey Kokey!
We intend to try and involve other elderly people in care homes, at different sessions. This is an area we plan to try to develop in 2019/2020.
We seize different opportunities to involve ourselves in various community activities such as the recent Family Fun Day in Douglas, the Manx Car car boot sale and school fundraising activities. We had a fantastic day at the Nobles Park Family Fun Day and we held four sessions throughout the afternoon, provided 300 party bags and had the most amazing time singing with lots of our regulars and new families too. Our magic box stories on the day involved an Action Man sized Spiderman rescuing Elsa and Anna from Frozen! In addition to this, one of our dads kindly agreed to be part of the story and dressed up as Spiderman! The children absolutely loved it and Singing Jo (me!) was rescued and swept up into the arms of our 6ft 2” Spiderman to the laughter of the crowds and myself!