By Laurel Talley
We’ve all smiled and giggled when we’ve caught a glimpse of our children having a spontaneous musical moment: Being mesmerized by a live musician, singing the “ABCs,” or drumming on a pot on the kitchen floor. Yet, sometimes we forget about the positive and engaged responses children can have to music and how it can help them learn.
Music is a unique outlet for children to explore, create and express themselves. It can also enhance their intellect. Studying an instrument requires children to focus, teaches them discipline and persistence, and refines motor skills. When they play in an orchestra or band, they learn to socialize, work as a team, and share.
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Involve your child in musical experiences early and often. A child’s natural enthusiasm for music, combined with creativity, can lead to endless fun and growth. Here are some simple ways to awaken the musician within your child.
Seek out live musical experiences. Expose them to a variety of live performances. This will pique their interest and you’ll discover what kinds of music and instruments motivate them. Consider the symphony, school and church concerts and festivals.
Create an active environment at home. Teach your child that music is all around us. Sing a favorite song together. Listen to recordings you both enjoy and make up a story or a dance to go with it. Make your own orchestra with things around the house -- bottles filled with water or empty paper towel tubes. Take a walk outside and listen to sounds in nature. Keep the activity interactive and creative.
Show them you love music. Parents are a child’s primary role model, so if you’re excited about music, they will be, too. Dance around the house or sing in the car. The parent’s ability level is not important; children simply need to see you joyfully participating.
Incorporate music into other educational experiences. Children learn the alphabet by singing the ABC’s. Try making up a song to help them retain new facts like body parts or colors. Use drum sounds to help them learn to count, add and subtract. Teach them new vocabulary by discussing different qualities and moods of music. Don’t be afraid to use big words.
Make music a part of your daily routine. Music can be easily integrated into your life and can break up monotony and relieve stress. Can’t get your child to brush his teeth long enough? Play a song of appropriate duration and have him brush to the beat. Does your child struggle to go to bed or have trouble waking up? Sing a lullaby to go to sleep and use an energetic song in the morning to start the day. Sing a “clean-up” song while tidying up.
Join a group music program. Children are motivated and learn best from each other. A group can also give them a sense of community. Children are never too young to begin their musical journeys. Look for classes that expose children to different types of music and teach fundamentals through singing, movement, and playing simple instruments. Learning the violin or piano through the Suzuki method can begin at 3 1/2 years old.
Laurel Talley is the Suzuki coordinator and lead violin instructor for Community School of the Arts in Charlotte. She teaches children ages 3-16 and has a master’s degree in music teaching from Oberlin Conservatory of Music.