When my older son, Pad was five-years-old, my husband and I made a commitment to teach him to ride a two-wheeler. In a matter of thirty minutes the training-wheels were off and a long U-shaped bar, called the Balance Buddy, was attached to the axle of the bike’s back wheel.
We went in the street, me in my flip-flops and Pad white-knuckled on the handlebars. I ran up and down the street, gripping and panting…say nothing of my physical stamina, because no matter what, mentally I couldn’t let go. With a sweating brow and an aching bunion, I knew I had to do it; I had to let go.
In no more than a couple of afternoon sessions, Pad was riding solo with full confidence (applause!). Pad insisted, “Mom, if I hum (insert primitive, grunting rhythm), my legs just keep going.” That was all there is to it; keep your legs moving and the bike will propel forward.
Now fast-forward two years, when my younger son, Luke was ready to scrap his training wheels. I thought I had this one in the bag. After all, everything from breast-feeding to potty training was easier the second time around.
Until it wasn’t.
We already had the system in place. We were even using the same bike. The only difference was days and then weeks were passing and Luke was tipping as soon as I let go. I thought maybe the bike had become lopsided, so we got a new bike. Still no success. We tried lowering the seat, practicing on the grass, practicing on a slope, practicing on a grassy slope. It got to a point where both my husband and I were running along side Luke, encouraging and coaching.
The one thing we didn’t think of was doing was humming.
Debbie Lindgren, a certified homeopath, turned to music therapy when her first grader could not tie his shoes. While listening to an acoustic pacing CD composed by Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, D.C., B.F.A., he was able to tie his shoes independently. After two weeks of listening to the music, he was able to tie his shoes with or without the music.
When I first shared with my mom friends this connection between auditory input and motor production, they glibly related it to their use of music to get pumped up before a big game or a job interview. They chalked it up to music’s power over our emotions and adrenaline.
But this is different; it’s cognitive. These studies highlight rhythm’s ability to ignite brain functions and motor skills. According to MusicTherapy.com, “Music provides a useful and motivating way to allow for the necessary repetition for learning to occur.”
Just as the soothing sound of a mother’s heartbeat is employed to strengthen learning abilities during a baby’s developmental period, rhythm therapies prove to have applications with physical coordination as well.
So, if you are one of the thousands of parents gearing up for the challenge of teaching your youngster to ride a bike (or to juggle, knit, pogo) this spring, consider adding a rhythmic accompaniment to the learning process. Music therapy can be the difference between prolonged frustration and natural fluidity.