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  • Writer's pictureSue Gascoyne

What’s your Soundtrack to family life?

Have you noticed how loud birdsong and even insects are? I’m not sure whether it’s the glorious weather, which those of us lucky enough to be safely at home during lockdown can now experience or the lack of competition with car and air traffic? Or perhaps it’s simply our ears tuning into some of nature’s positive life-giving sounds? This reminds me of Brenda Crowe’s fabulous book ‘Play is a Feeling’ which features adults’ vivid childhood memories, like the exhilarating feel of splashing in a puddle, or the calming contentment of raking patterns with your hands in sand.

As well as being a fascinating reminder of what it feels like to be a child, for those of us who sadly have no such memories, it also provides an intriguing insight into the role played by our senses, and more to the point, how auditory memories of old have increasingly been lost through technological advances. If you’re lucky enough to have a washing machine, then the weekly sounds and smells of wash day (it was Monday’s in my childhood house) are likely a thing of the past. Although convenient, a dishwasher too can replace the sound of water being run, the gentle clinking of cutlery and crockery and chatter of washing and drier-uppers. With ready meals and relay-style family mealtimes increasingly the norm, baking sounds and chatter have also been lost for many.

And so as devastating as Covid-19 is, for the lucky ones able to safely stay at home with their families it also brings fresh opportunities to forge new auditory memories as we rekindle some of the practices of our own childhoods, be that family meal times, baking, gardening or leisure time together. A rise in home baking and cooking has been reported globally as online searches for recipes has increased and sales of flour and other baking ingredients have spiked. Not only is this good news nutritionally, as the hidden salt, sugar and fats in many ready meals are worryingly high, but it also provides wonderful opportunities for engaging the senses, getting a physical workout and doing fun and satisfying stuff together. Previously time poor parents have a real opportunity to share their cooking nuggets, or learn together to help equip the next generation with some key self-sufficiency lessons which will see them in good stead as students and into adulthood.

During this challenging time, young children’s sound memories will also be forged and older children’s sense of wellbeing, either questioned or affirmed. As difficult as it is in these uncertain times, we have a choice about what our family’s soundtrack features, be it arguing parents or siblings, the incessant sound of the TV, the startle of sirens, tinkle of joyful music, gaggle of laughter, mouth-watering sounds of baking, the joyful chirrups of birds or the exhilarating throng of Clap for NHS heroes. What will be on your family's playlist?

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