Watch what happens to a room full of young children when they hear a song. They clap, they sing, they smile, they dance. Music has an instant effect on children, and from early on it permeates their lives. Lullabies are played in nurseries to help newborns sleep, parents sing to soothe crying babies and many children first learn the alphabet by song. Music elicits an emotional, intellectual and physical response – and it helps us to learn. Literacy, language and math skills can all be positively influenced by music.
It is easy to see why encouraging music exploration with your little one is worthwhile. What are some simple ways to start? Try these ideas to start incorporating music into your child’s life.
Make an instrument
There are many items around your house just waiting to be transformed into musical instruments. For example, see what happens when you fill a milk jug with beans, seal it shut and hand it to your child for some shaking and music making. Try filling other containers with rice or other objects for different sounds.
Have a family musical performance
After you create your instruments, gather for a performance. Sing a familiar tune, or come up with one of your own. Discover the joy of rhythm as you tap out the beats with your toes and clap your hands. Encourage self-expression and confidence with a solo performance.
Think about differences in sound
What happens when you hit a glass with a spoon? What happens when you fill that glass with water? What common sounds do you hear in your house? What do you hear outside? Go on a sound walk and ask your child about the different sounds they hear. Take it one step further and bring a journal and crayons along. Have your child draw a picture to show what they heard and experienced on the walk.
Listen to different types of music
There are many types of music and it benefits your child to be exposed to many different varieties. “Bringing music into the home is wonderful,” says Sheila Vail, owner of Indian Springs Academy of Music. “Exposure to a variety of styles and composers will quickly make music a part of life. Listening to music with focused attention can make children aware that music is a form of expression.”
Try a music class
“More than 80 national research studies document musical and cognitive advantages from investing in a structured music program,” says Rachel Kramer, President of Baldwin Music Education Center. “Studies have followed preschoolers through adulthood, sighting the broad-based benefits early music instruction provided. Students are more likely to stay in school, graduate from college, get a job, become active in their community and even vote.” Baldwin Music Education Center has been around over fifty years and has programs beginning at six months through high school.
West Chester Academy offers a sequential series of classes from birth on up. “We find that private music students progress faster and have a heightened degree of musicianship if they take preschool music classes prior to beginning private lessons,” says Patsy Rabinowitz, West Chester Academy Director.
Indian Springs Academy offers several unique programs for children. “Exposure to music and an instrument at an early age helps develop fine motor skills, organizational thinking, creativity and increases spatial awareness,” says Vail. “Students engaged in group music programs learn to work with others in a unique way. They learn to take direction from a designated leader, synthesize their activity with those around them, appreciate the performance of others and [develop] a basic principle of working together towards a common goal.”
Songs for Seeds owner, Luis Diaz, says, “Children learn best through play. This is key for any early music program. In general, a successful preschool program goes beyond music and includes motor and sensory development activities that are embedded into fun playful games.” Songs for Seeds offers fun interactive music classes led by a guitar player, keyboard player and drummer.
Model the joy of music
Joe Backer and his wife Anna, co-owners and directors of the Cincinnati School of Music “always had music playing in the background. Many times it is active listening, other times passive. Being musicians, we often play piano for our daughters and sing to them. We let them explore sounds with different household objects (even if it drives us crazy sometimes) and sounds on our piano without trying to ‘teach’ them how to play. At a very early age, it is important to make it a game and keep it fun.” Their private lesson program makes music fun and also rewards kids for reaching certain milestones with their musical achievement program.
Attend family friendly concerts
Opportunities to take advantage of musical performances abound in the Cincy area. According to Kramer, “Live concert attendance is fabulous and of course the Linton Series Peanut Butter and Jams concerts are unique to the Greater Cincinnati Area and should not be missed.” Check out the Cincinnati Parent Calendar of Events to find other musical activities and performances available in the area.
Whether your child makes their own rhythm by banging pots and pans in the kitchen, dances to a rock song in the family room or attends a concert to hear the sounds instruments make, each experience allows them the joy of creating and listening to music.