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Rap Activities for Kids to Improve Behaviors

by Cara Batema

Music stimulates so many areas of the brain that it helps people with memory and mood regulation. According to an article entitled "Exploring the Mysteries of Music and the Brain" by the University of Colorado Denver, famous classical composer George Frideric Handel said music is not just for entertainment, but it also makes people “better citizens.” The idea that music can improve behavior is a concept that music therapists and other health professionals use on a regular basis. These clinicians often use rap music because it is a favorite style for many children.

Rap the Rules

It’s natural to assume your child wasn’t listening when you told him to clean his room and he didn’t do it. It’s essential to teach children in a language they understand, so rather than telling him the rules, teach them in a song and repeat the song until your child sings it of his own free will -- probably because he can’t get it out of his head. Keep your rap rules simple and repeat key phrases like, “Small voices inside, tall voices on the playground” or “Work together, don’t fight, or you’ll get in trouble,” as recommended by Songs for Teaching. Tailor your song to the areas of behavior you want to target with your child.

Transitions

Many children have difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, and your child might throw a fit if you’ve asked him to take a bath and he wants to keep playing. Write a simple rap tune for the transitions with which your child has difficulty. This musical cue gives your child time to adjust and signals his brain that it’s time to follow your rules.

Listening

Children in middle school or older are able to talk about songs and how they make them feel, and they can even look at lyrics and talk about what the song means. Music therapists call this process a “lyric analysis,” and it provides insight into why kids love the music they do while also offering a catalyst to discussing how they can apply the song to their own lives. Pick a song your child really loves and print out a sheet of the lyrics. Talk about the music -- does your child like the beat or is there a melody in the chorus he responds to? Also discuss the lyrics. A rapper might say, “Sometimes I feel like I want to hit the wall.” Ask your child if he feels this way, and if he thinks there are alternatives to acting violently. Additionally, listening to favorite music can help your child calm down when he’s upset.

Writing a Rap

Your child doesn’t have to be the next rap star to write a song, and he can be as young as a toddler or as old as a high school student to write a rap. If you have a younger child, you might want to start with some lyrics and let your child fill in the blanks. Older children will be able to take the reins and write from scratch. You might want to give your child a subject to write about, such as how he feels when he’s angry and healthy ways to deal with those emotions. Once you have written the lyrics down, tap a beat on the table or use stomps and claps to create the rap rhythm. Chant the words on top of your beat or even record your rap song -- music is more memorable when you actively engage in the music-making process.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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