The Power of Community – Mainly Music

The Monday & Wednesday Mainly Music group starts at 9.30am and comprises of 20 minutes structured music followed by unstructured play and eat time. It welcomes parents, grandparents and caregivers. 

Mainly Music groups are connected to churches, however participants from all religious backgrounds are welcome. The group is about collaboration as a community and connecting with our children through music. Cheryll Peart has been running the group for 16 years. She has established a warm, safe and loving environment, an ideal space for caregivers to share a cup of tea and swap stories of the trials and tribulations of parenting. 

The positive effect of developmental music groups for children under two (both premature and full-term infants) was shown by Dr Walworth in 20091. The infants in this study demonstrated more social toy play. A key consideration of this study is that infants attended music groups with their parents. The connections, attachment and positive interactions established during this type of socialising is exactly what matters, and this can be found at Mainly Music, just up the road at Te Uku Church. 

Here in New Zealand in 1990, Jo Hood followed intuition when she founded Mainly Music. Although since the 1990’s, the science behind the success of these groups is no longer intuitive, there is a wealth of scientific research that supports the positive impacts of community groups.  

So, how do community groups benefit us and our children? From a personal perspective, I relied on community groups to navigate my days as a new parent. I needed time to be out of the house, to have shared experiences with my children and most importantly, to prevent myself from obsessive house-keeping. It just so happened, that in safeguarding my wellbeing, my children received the gift of opportunities to socialise, connect and learn.

One strength of making community connections during the early years is the development of the senses and social intelligence. Attending community groups such as, Whaingaroa Community Gardens (check out the tamariki garden), Te Mata Playgroup (Thursdays 9am-12pm), Raglan Plunket coffee mornings (every second Monday) and Mainly Music (Monday and Wednesday mornings), parents and caregivers are able to support their children in developing social intelligence, which, according to Marissa King  is a flexible mindset. Indeed, being engaged with community is a preparatory step for day-care, kindergarten, school readiness and, most importantly, fostering a love of life-long learning and participation. 

Marion Wright from Raglan explained that her children have all gained confidence by attending Mainly Music, “whatever age and stage they are in, there is always something they can participate in”. Some of her children are now at school and confident on stage leading a crowd. Marion shared that despite sometimes feeling alone in managing adversity, the connections made in community participation are incredibly healing and freeing, and that we are not alone. Marion is also involved with Foodbank, Whaingaroa Tamariki Touch Rugby and Adult Touch Rugby. 

Mirjam Koning from Raglan has been attending Mainly music for 14 years and during that time she has helped out with many of the roles that enable the group to run smoothly. Now, Mirjam runs ‘up front’ delivering the songs and movement and sparking joy amongst the children and carers. Mirjam participates in the Surfside community and expressed that Mainly Music introduces the church in a fun way, and that everyone has value and is loved. Her family are dairy farmers thus social interaction is a key attribute of the group for herself and her family. 

Melody Macleod has been attending the group since October last year. Melody describes the group as a cool place for her and her daughter Thea to connect, make some friends and have some chats. Melody loves how interactive the environment is for Thea, who particularly likes the maracas. Mainly Music has been a platform for them to initially make connections from which friendships have formed. 

Anna John from Raglan was attending Mainly Music for her first time with her son Leo this term. Anna loved seeing Leo’s face as he engaged with the people and the musical content, she could tell by his facial expressions that he was loving it. The group provided food for the babies as well as delicious coffee and choccy biccies. Practicalities aside, Anna returned for a second session because of the support and positive encouragement felt during her time with the group as well as the joyful atmosphere that was created for her child. Prior to having Leo, Anna contributed to the Karioi Project and looks forward to returning to this. 

Rowena Crowhurst from Te Uku, notes the effect of the music group on brain development. She explained how her child has learnt to take turns, listen, respond and make use of all their senses. Rowena is connected to the Matapihi and Let’s Grow kindergarten communities, she describes Mainly Music as friendly, “if you want to have a cry, you can cry, I’ve had that a few times”. She also noted that Cheryll makes her feel welcome, this is a sentiment I totally agree with. Ultimately, the good vibes that emanate from this group all come back to Cheryll and the established team that hold the space and offer love, kindness, and support. 

In light of the Covid pandemic, Mainly Music practitioners in the UK have developed small online cohorts to continue this important work. While we have the chance in New Zealand to connect in person, I urge expectant parents and those with young children to step out and explore some of these amazing services we have on our doorstep, for yourself, and for your child. 

Katie Lowes MSc MBPsS @thelittlerosies