Music is a cultural activity and enjoyable art form, but it can be hard to explain to someone who doesn’t understand it. And some kids just don't gravitate toward it. So how do you raise a child to love music -- and is it even important?
To answer the second question first -- yes -- music is important to a child's development. Teaching your child about songs and composition can help with:
Learning about and creating music is more than an enjoyable pastime. It can actually help your child gain greater focus and understanding of the world around him. So while you may not be able to raise a child to love music, it should definitely be a part of their life.
Here are five easy ways to make it happen.
We know it's important to read to babies when they're still inside mom, and the same goes for playing them music. Some research has shown that mothers who played music and read to their babies during pregnancy felt a stronger maternal bond and reported fewer symptoms of postpartum depression as compared to mothers who did not use any type of prenatal stimulation. (Music is even being used in hospitals to help premature babies learn to feed, so there has to be something to this connection.)
That act should continue after the baby is born. Use a variety of music and see what your baby gravitates toward. The more stimulating your musical environment, the more likely your child will learn how to recognize and appreciate different compositional styles.
Building the connection between kids and music should start at a very young age. When your little peanut is still too young to speak, sing to him regularly. It doesn't matter if you think you're off-key, that connection is important. He’ll probably respond by watching you in wonder or by calming down if he’s been fussy. When he gets old enough to join in, sing songs with him. Your child will enjoy listening to your voice, and hearing you sing frequently will give him a positive attitude about musical expression.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children notes multiple benefits of singing to your child. From improving language and communication skills to bonding, the benefits are endless.
Making instruments out of pan lids, wooden spoons, and paper towel tubes filled with beans can be very fun for kids. It can also stimulate their imaginations and encourage them to see the potential for music all around them.
To maintain your sanity (pot lid cymbals can be very noisy!) you may wish to have a designated “make your own tunes” time each day. It's also important to teach the child what makes for a good instrument (and old pot) and what doesn't (the wedding china).
When your child is old enough to learn how to play a real instrument, consider allowing her to select the instrument she wants to play. If she seems indifferent or is too young to choose, select an instrument that matches your child’s temperament. For instance, if your daughter has a lot of nervous energy, percussion instruments can help her get her jitters out in a productive way. If your son is an extrovert and loves attention, he may do well playing the trumpet.
Some children may flip-flop between instruments. That's okay. Letting them find their own voice/instrument is key to having them learn to love music.
From school to local arts programs, there is probably some type of children’s music program located near you. Children’s classes are targeted to various developmental stages and can help your son learn at his own pace. Most programs incorporate a variety of methods to build a basic understanding of musical concepts, including games, singing, playing simple instruments and moving in time.
Can't afford private classes? A Google search for "free children's music classes near me" can get you on the right path.
Half the fun of learning how to play an instrument or use proper vocal technique is showing your newfound skills off to others. If your child is involved in voice or instrument lessons, she’ll probably be given regular opportunities to perform at recitals. If you’re teaching these skills at home, organize your own family “show” so she has the chance to perform for others. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Simply gathering the family around the living room to watch her play two or three songs is a great start.
Raising a child to love music isn't hard, it just takes a little support on your end. They may not come to like the same music you love, but that's fine. From singing to playing an instrument, from traditional music to heavy metal, as long as your child is liking some form of music they're on the right track.
National Association for the Education of Young Children
Creative Soul Music -- Choosing the Right Instrument for Your Child