Case levels are rising, the NHS app is pinging people left right and centre... If you find yourself self-isolating with a young baby, you're not alone - and we have some ideas that might help!
During lockdown, I found myself looking for ways to entertain my daughter and came across Mini Music Makers. If you haven't met them, they are absolutely brilliant entertainers, running online classes four days a week with traditional nursery rhymes, nursery rhymes with a bit of a twist and their own original music. All with a lot of instruments, props, and complete hilarity - for parents and kids.
We interviewed Lucia, the classically trained musician and early years music teacher who is also the co-star of Mini Music Makers, to find out a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes, and to get her top tips about how to engage and entertain your baby through online classes.
Rhian, Bibevie: Firstly, hi! Thanks so much for joining us for this interview. We are huge Mini Music Makers fans in our house and I've got to ask to start off with - you make it look so easy and effortless. How much work really goes on behind the scenes?
Lucia, Mini Music Makers: Hello! Thanks for such lovely words about our classes! When we started our online classes at the beginning of the first lockdown, I started ‘work’ at about 5am, answering Facebook messages, planning the classes, and we’d often still be making props/scenery at 10pm! But now we’ve been doing the classes for well over a year, we sit down to rehearse half an hour before the live show, and I’ll plan the next day’s class at some point during the day and send it to Matt to get all the props/costumes ready. Choosing the songs and rehearsing day to day classes doesn’t take much time any more, but we put a lot of work into our themed classes, and all the daily social media, uploading, prop-gathering and tidying-up takes ages!
That's a long day to start off with - especially when you had a toddler and a pregnancy ongoing at the time! You have an incredible selection of props - do you make them all yourselves?
Oh yes! We’ve made hats out of lamp shades, icebergs from polystyrene sheets, and have a whole storeroom full of big pieces of scenery we’ve made. Matt even made a traffic light with flashing lights once! Our three year old, Persephone, loves to help with the painting, so it’s lovely to involve her. Our house now resembles a kids TV studio as it’s full of props/costumes/scenery we’ve created for Mini Music Makers. The mess is UNREAL!
I think a lot of us can relate to the messy house situation! How have you found the pandemic? Will you stop doing these classes when everything opens up or do you plan to keep on running them?
Of course it’s been tough at times, but without the pandemic we would never have started our online classes, so that’s been a huge silver lining. We enjoy them so much and if we can make it work financially, we would love to keep going. It’s been amazing connecting with families all over the world, hearing how the classes have helped them. And for us personally, it’s given us a structure to the long days of lockdown, a chance to work together as a family, a creative outlet, and a source of income when all our other work was suddenly cancelled.
Well it's been brilliant for all of us watching. You have the occasional toddler meltdown to contend with in the middle of your classes, and you both always handle it like absolute pros - serious #ParentingGoals. What are your tips on dealing with the big emotions and tantrums that all of our kids have?
Haha, thank you! In the early days of the first lockdown I used to get so stressed about Sephy’s meltdowns, but soon realised that no one cared, as it reminded parents they weren’t alone in dealing with extreme toddler behaviour! I’m certainly no expert, and luckily we’re out of the ‘terrible twos’ with Sephy (it’s all to come with Marley!) but I constantly reminded myself she was just ‘doing her job’ which - as a two year old - is to test boundaries and have irrational meltdowns! And always be ready to give hugs when needed.
Some great tips there and you're so right, seeing tantrums in other households makes me feel much better that it's not just my house! And what about the younger ones? When we're watching along with the babies, how is it best to interact with them?
Demonstrating is key! Don’t take your baby’s hands and do the actions for them, they won’t learn this way. Lots of eye contact, while singing along and showing them the actions is the way to do it! And remember, your voice is your baby’s favourite sound, so even if you think you’re not going to be starring at the Royal Opera House any time soon, your baby will love hearing you sing to them.
What are your must-have toys or props to go along with your classes?
Props are a lovely extra, but not essential. We consciously designed our baby classes without any props so everyone can do them, even if they don’t have snazzy instruments/colourful scarves. And let’s face it - babies way prefer playing with actual keys/a saucepan than brightly coloured plastic bells (Marley’s favourite toy at the moment is a bicycle pump!) You can use a muslin/blanket for peekaboo songs, or encourage them to bang a saucepan with a wooden spoon.
Speaking of Marley - he's a star in the making and we love seeing his guest appearances! What age do you recommend your daily classes for?
Our regular daily classes are great for babies from around 7 months, but we also have a playlist on Youtube of classes specially for 0-6 month olds. [Bibevie note: this class is amazing - it includes lots of recognisable songs, some baby massage - ideal for the littlest ones! Check it out here] Having a young baby is hard, and sometimes you want to engage with them but don’t have the energy to work out what to do. Our Musical Beginnings classes are around 20 minutes long, and you don’t need any props, just your baby. Perfect for that witching hour around 4pm!
That sounds perfect - the last few hours of the day are always the longest! When do babies start to benefit from listening to music?
Poor Marley had to listen to MMM Online every day he was in the womb, and has listened/joined in for the 9 months he’s been out of it too! But he is such a chilled, happy baby, and I put down so much of that to him being constantly around music. Of course that’s just anecdotal, but there have been lots of studies on how music from an early age can have all sorts of benefits, from bonding with your baby, to helping with communication skills and general development.
I think there are much worse things to be listening to for 9 months! What else can we do as parents to foster a love of music in our kids?
Just sing to them all the time, even if you think your voice isn’t the best, immerse them in lots of different types of music, and encourage them to bang pots and pans!
Ah yes - the good old pots and pans trick! Back to your classes - do you have a favourite song? Or on the other side - any songs you dread seeing come up in the request section?
Matt loves Elephants have Wrinkles, and I’m a big fan of Shady the Raccoon as watching Matt trying to be a New York gangster is hilarious! I don’t have any songs I don’t like!
We love those ones too, although my personal fav is the Sea Turtle Salsa. You mentioned Matt - you guys have the most hilarious partnership on screen. What's it like working with your partner?
The best! It’s been so fun getting to build this online business together. I love writing ridiculous children’s songs with him, coming up with new ideas for themed classes, and getting to sit and make music together every day. That makes it sound like it’s all lovey dovey though. We have had so many arguments as well! When I was heavily pregnant I once got so angry at him before a class I threw a pile of sheet music at him then burst into tears. Five minutes later we were smiling away doing a live class!
Always such professionals! Thank you so much for talking to us today Lucia, we have loved your classes and hope anyone reading this blog checks them out too. Mini Music Makers run classes 4 days a week, at 10:30am, live on Facebook and YouTube, and also live classes in Brighton. You can find out more on their website here.
And if you'd like to see Bibevie products in action with the Mini Music Makers, we teamed up with them for an amazing safari themed class, complete with the most incredible set, and a Bibevie giveaway. Marley makes a fabulous guest appearance at the end in his Bibevie elephant dungarees and bib - you can see the full session here, or a snippet below:
See you soon!