A national music group, Musical Minis, enables children as young as six months to explore the world through music. Musical Minis, founded by former Great Ormond Street hospital play specialist Karen Sherr in 1989, has since grown from strength to strength.
Karen, 39, of Pinner, Middlesex, says the success of the company, which has 10 franchises including those in Oxford, Durham, Merseyside and Hertford is due to its child-centred rather than music-centred approach.
She explains: ‘Our unique combination of music, which ranges from jazz through classical to traditional children’s songs, stories, instruments and puppets, provides the opportunity to enhance the development of a wide range of abilities including co-ordination, speech and social skills.’
‘A party theme, which centres on the children, helps to create a relaxed group atmosphere, encourages the children to discover sounds, explore instruments, mimic actions and learn to share and make friends.’
Karen says: ‘It is incredible that so many children have passed through Musical Minis. I am really pleased that parents have chosen to give their child’s early development such a boost by attending our classes.’ Musical Minis reached its 5000th customer in June 2002 and is now well on the way to its 6000.
Karen’s partner in Musical Minis is Patricia Elson, 61, a nursery school headmistress, also from Pinner. Karen is a mum of three children aged 9, 12 and 14, and Pat is a mum of two grown up boys.
There is a school of thought that believes babies listen and respond to sounds even in the womb. Certainly there is ample proof that very young babies react to music and enjoy its effects.
Karen adds: ‘To surround a child with visual and aural stimulation is not enough. Unless there is an active element it would be like giving a child a book and never opening the pages. The Musical Minis programme has been designed to assist parents and carers to join in activities to encourage the natural attraction to the music and to learn good speech with the repetition of nursery rhymes and stories.’
Each session is structured to include action songs for co-ordination, musical statues to help develop listening skills, musical instruments to explore sounds and effects, a story to teach rhythm and introduce early orchestra and nursery rhymes and songs to encourage speech.
Musical Minis aims to help each child to achieve its full potential. The youngest children respond to the rhythms, colours, shapes and feel of the instruments. Toddlers enjoy the variety of music and instruments; they learn to share and explore sounds and love the puppets and stories. Pre-school children like to demonstrate the actions and sing the words of favourite rhymes thereby developing both fine and gross motor skills.
Musical Minis is keen to integrate special needs children with those who are more able. Some of the most rewarding experiences have come from children who have managed to participate fully in sessions despite their disabilities.
Hyperactive children, special needs, multiple births have all benefited from attending Musical Minis. Parents appreciate the difference coming to Musical Minis sessions makes to their children. Most of all, the classes are fun and provide a definite tonic each week for both the parent and the child.
Musical Minis has many years’ experience of working closely with health visitors. The health visitor will pick up if a first time mum is feeling isolated or is having difficulty in bonding with her baby. Musical Minis is one way of helping with both of these difficulties.
With babies welcome from six months (although some do come from a younger age), Musical Minis provides an early opportunity for a mother to socialise with other mothers and benefit from the interaction with her child that forms a central part of the programme.