Kheeima Stewart qualified as an Interactive Music-Maker in 2018; Since then she has continued using her interactive music-making techniques and activities within her Early Years Community Co-ordinator role at Quaggy Children’s Centre in Lewisham. Here, we speak to Kheeima about her use of music at Quaggy, and how they are continuing to provide a vital service during COVID-19.
At the start of the COVID-19 Outbreak here in the UK, we contacted all our UK Partners to ask how we might help them. Kheeima (pictured far right, at the 2018 Presentation Day) was the first to respond. Like many nurseries and schools, Quaggy Children’s Centre has stayed open for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, and Kheeima told us that together with her colleague Catherine (also an Interactive Music-Maker, pictured centre), ‘We want to keep the momentum up for our children and keep them engaged with the love of music and thought it would be a good time to invest in some different resources.'
We were pleased to share with Kheeima guidance we had put together in response to two significant challenges for key workers continuing to support children at the moment: How do you quickly put together a meaningful music session when the children are different ages and abilities, and when you might not know them well? And how do you run a music session when sharing musical instruments has become an infection control issue? If you’re an Interactive Music-Maker reading this, or an interested early years practitioner, find the guidance here! While Kheeima is currently self-isolating, she has been encouraging the Community Team to model musical activities for their children’s families, as well as provide instrument-free musical activities at the nursery.
Quaggy Children’s Centre
We asked Kheeima to tell us more about her commitment to interactive music-making, how she and the team have impressively integrated it into their service and the impact it has had:
“Quaggy is one of five children’s centres within the Quaggy Development Trust, so together we have a big service. Between January and March 2020 our five children’s centres saw 1490 families across Greenwich West – and we’ll have a sixth centre running from April 2020!
The children range from babies up to five years old. About 10% of the families who attend our centres and Stay and Plays have English as a second or additional language (EAL), and so the children often need to work with speech and language practitioners. Another 2% of the families we see have an Education, Health and Care Plan (an ‘EHCP’), meaning the child has additional educational needs; others have learning delays and difficulties. We always signpost these families to relevant agencies to support them on their journey and, like with EAL, we also use Interactive Music Making sessions."
Kheeima’s manager, Lis Day, told us how pleased she has been with her development: "It has been very rewarding to have watched the journey Kheeima has gone on to become an Interactive Music-Maker. She put in a tremendous amount of effort when training and has carried this through in her practice. Because of her commitment, dedication and enthusiasm, she has been able to support families who were struggling with certain aspects of being a parent and she has helped most importantly, the child to become a happier, confident, autonomous learner with the key ingredients needed in order for children to do well throughout their life. We strive across all our Children's Centres to ensure music is an integral part of the provision we deliver to all our families, and having Kheeima as one of our Interactive Music-Making practitioners has certainly enabled us to deliver outstanding sessions for our families. I very much look forward to seeing where we go next with interactive music making and the journey Kheeima is on."
Why is interactive music-making so important for Quaggy’s children and their families?
"For the children I described, we prioritise both helping to develop and build their confidence, as well as building up their language development. Parents who are unfamiliar with nursery songs and rhymes need our support to give them the confidence to sing at home. Some families we work with are isolated from their wider families, friends or social networks and this has an impact on the whole family’s mental and emotional needs. So it’s really key for us to help them build strong relationships with their children and to understand the part that musical activities can play in this: It both strengthens their bond and their child’s development and learning. Since I trained, I think I’ve been able to use IMM to help about 250 children & their families. Kheeima is pictured, right, running an IMM session.
I believe music to be so important for all our families because the sessions are fun and exciting; we see the families happy and the children with a sense of enjoyment and pride in what they have achieved. A key area for me is also how music helps children to self-regulate their emotions. Some of our children cannot express themselves verbally… they get frustrated and angry. Through IMM we aim to build the children’s understanding and use of key words, and we give them the opportunity to express themselves through music and to gain from the positive experience of doing this. It also helps children who can’t communicate with words develop relationships, as it gives them new ways to engage meaningfully with others.
Are there particular children who have benefited from your Interactive Music-Making?
Kheeima told us that her Interactive Music-Making sessions give her valuable insight into the children, which strengthens the information she can provide for other people about children’s progress or areas of difficulties. She incorporates the children’s responses to interactive music-making into case studies, such as she wrote recently after providing a block of interactive music-making sessions for a group of 6 children for whom English was an additional language: “Looking at two children in particular, this block really shows how IMM has positively impacted our children. The first child, Ellis*, came to us finding sharing toys with his peers difficult. He would snatch them away and shout ‘No!’ when they wanted to play; he also found separating from Sally*, his Crèche worker, really hard. Since taking part in his IMM group, I’ve been really pleased to see him gradually separating from Sally, and now he walks confidently into sessions. He initiates meaningful interactions – choosing songs and instruments, and engaging in rhythms and beats. His overall confidence is much better as a result! Another child, Denzel*, has also really developed his confidence and learnt to moderate his behaviour. Unable to express his emotions he used to lash out at his peers and show them angry facial expressions. But he’s really loved IMM: he listens and responds to adults meaningfully, and through concepts like fast/slow and soft/loud he has found a way to express his emotions through music. ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ was a great song for Denzel as it allowed us to talk about how he was feeling. IMM allowed us to create a baseline of observation about Denzel and we went on to run small 1-to-1 sessions with him, which gave me an opportunity to focus more on his feelings and emotions with him.
What's next for interactive music-making at Quaggy?
Kheeima told us that the main limitation to interactive music-making within the Children’s Centre cluster, is a shortage of musical instruments: “We do have a large number of families wanting to access Interactive Music-Making, however, due to lack of resources, we are only able to offer a waiting list. We have currently have one music pack that is used across our five (soon to be six) Children Centres. Our existing instruments have sustained some damage after a couple of years of use by the children! We also move them across sites which means they can get lost.”
Sustainability is integral to the Music as Therapy International approach, so we were only too happy to help Kheeima and her colleagues keep their music-making going by providing some additional musical instruments. Kheeima was able to apply for these using our new Instrument Request Form (as part of our 2020 Motivation Programme we have an Opportunities Fund for Partners who are in need a more specific support request).
Kheeima told us, “Additional musical instruments will make such an impact for us. We are requesting instruments so can provide these vital services across all of our Children’s Centres. Our Stay and Plays can have up to 25 families taking part – so more instruments will mean everyone will be able to partake. Although our IMM groups are smaller we need enough resources to offer choices to the children fairly so they feel valued and respected and autonomous. After all, it’s all about giving them the opportunity to have a voice and be heard. And we of course value the instruments themselves, and their unique use and sounds give the children more opportunities to explore textures through sense and sounds, with wood, metal and plastic instruments. This variety also helps us teach the children about the different cultures that surround them, including British culture, by using instruments used from different countries around the word. And lastly, but very importantly, having more instruments will also decrease the risk of cross-contamination with Coronavirus, at a time we especially need to ensure we are keeping children and families safe and healthy.”
We will be sharing photos of the team and their children with the instruments as soon as we return to normal!