How to Raise a Musical Child
So, you have great dreams for your child! Maybe you hope that one day they might be a world-famous pianist, or maybe you just want them to be able to enjoy music in a way you have never been able to. Maybe you are musical yourself, and want to pass your greatest joy on to your child, or maybe you never had musical opportunities growing up, and you want your child to be better off. Whatever your reasons, helping your child to develop musical skills, understanding, and appreciation opens doors to whole new worlds. Even if your child won’t be the next Beethoven or Celine Dion, every child deserves the ability to experience the joys of music.
It Starts at Home
While there are many interesting classes and activities available for your child to participate in, the best place to foster musicality in your child is your own home. Of course, this is where your child most consistently spends time, especially when he is young. Even more, this is where your child feels safe and nurtured, so this is the place that will, by far, have this most significant emotional influence on him. As your child’s parent, you are his greatest influence and his most important advocate. From the time your child is born, you can ensure he is surrounded by a positive, constructive, and encouraging atmosphere.
Creating a musical environment
How do you create this musical atmosphere? You can start with just a few CD’s or other recordings of music you enjoy listening to. While it’s true that not all music is created equal, and that some types of music can have greater cognitive developmental effects than other types of music, the most important aspect is that your child is surrounded by music from a young age, and witnesses you enjoying the sounds. Play music in the car, while you do the dishes, while your child plays, or during meals.
It is important for your child to hear music regularly, but constantly is not necessarily best. Your child should also be able to appreciate silence, and thereby develop greater appreciation for the music when it does play.
Taking listening to the next level means discovering new sounds you enjoy. Maybe this just means mixing a little jazz or world music into your playlists, or maybe you can add in some classical! Think you don’t like classical? Think again– there are four different distinct periods of classical music, each with their own unique sounds. Do some research, listening to a variety of different styles (Youtube is a great resource for free music). Find something you like, and then grow out from there. Someday, your child will thank you for helping them to develop diverse taste and appreciation.
Listening isn’t everything– give your child opportunities to interact with the music, and to create their own. Supply your child with a few simple, age appropriate musical instruments, such as a bongo drum, xylophone, rattle/maraca, or ukulele. Show your child how to make beats on their own, or tap along with the background sounds you’ve been listening to.
The first activity is the most obvious– just sing or tap along to the music you are already listening to! Doing this directs your child’s awareness to the sounds and makes the tunes more than just elevator music.
Sing with your child! Sing even when the music isn’t playing, while you are doing chores or playing together. Show your child how much fun music can be. Children especially love songs with actions, such as “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “Ring Around the Rosie,” “Patty Cake,” and “Hokey Pokey.”
Play “Repeat After Me”! There are so many different ways to play this simple game with your child. Whether you are creating simple patterns on a rhythm instrument and having your child play them after you, or you are singing a line of a song that your child then echos, your child is learning several skills, such as musicality, rhythm, memory, and tones, as well as having a bond-forming interaction with you.
If you are musical yourself, an outstanding activity to engage your child is singing or playing scales. Letting your child hear these simple patterns helps them grow an understanding of the building blocks of music and understand on a subconscious level the melodic structures of songs. When your child is old enough, they will happily sing along these addictive patterns.
There are many different home music curriculums that help you begin your child’s musical education yourself. Products such as Brillkids “Little Musician” or Calvert School’s “Discoveries in Music” help your child get off to a well-rounded, musical start. Most children love to participate in the engaging activities of songs to sing, rhythms to create, classics to listen to, and scales to understand.
Daily and Weekly Routines
Getting into routines can really help your musical efforts have long lasting effect. Children love consistency and the comfort that comes with familiar activities. The occasional musical activity is fun, but doesn’t have nearly the impact that an activity done routinely can. Some examples include: playing music every evening during dinner, greeting your child each morning with a “Goodmorning” song, playing a musical “Repeat After Me” game in the car on the way home from school each day, or doing a lesson from a music curriculum each evening together.
Social Aspects & Activities
Beyond what you do at home, there are many activities and classes available in most communities. If your child is still very young, “Mommy & Baby” music classes are one of the most valuable and bond-forming activities you can do with your child. A good class will expose your child to a variety of genres of music, teach your child a strong sense of rhythm, help your child to understand melodic structure, and provide a solid foundation for developing perfect pitch.
If your child is a bit older, there are literally dozens of options for different types of classes your child can participate in. “Music Readiness” classes are similar to the “Mommy & Baby” classes, accept structured for preschoolers or kindergarteners. Piano classes, group music lessons, band and orchestra programs, choral groups, and summer music camps are just a few of the many options available.
Social activities are important for many reasons, but two of their primary benefits are community and positive competitive spirit. Children need to interact with each other musically to see the purpose of their studies and experience the joy that musical relationships can bring. Also, without a little competitive spirit, many children are not fully motivated to practice and improve their musicality.
Develop your own musicality!
If you aren’t already a musical person, never fear! It’s not too late to start. Anyone, at any age, can begin learning about and discovering the joys of music. As your child’s greatest advocate, you are responsible for being an example to them– both in taste and in character. What you like and enjoy, so will your child perceive as good. What you diligently pursue, your child will assess to be of high value.
Don’t just dream– do! Do learn, do discover, do enjoy! There is a world out there you’ve barely touched– and it is waiting for you to hear and FEEL it. Claim it as your own, and share it all with your child. Music is one of the most amazing gifts you can ever give.