Children love music. This seems almost universal. Maybe they don’t like mom and dad’s music, but they like music. Lullabies can calm a crying baby, and little kids love to sing songs. Kids will invent their own dance moves when the mood strikes them, and as they get older, they can often be heard singing the theme songs to their favorite movie or television show.
A growing number of studies are demonstrating that music education has a variety of benefits beyond simply being able to play a musical instrument. Studying music can improve a child’s focus and concentration, their memory, and can enhance their skill with language and mathematics.
A lot of parents might be wondering how to begin giving their children a musical education. It’s actually fairly easy, and parents can begin almost right away. Singing to children when they are very little is actually the easiest way to begin to instill a love for music in a child. Dr. Robert A. Cutietta, Dean at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, writing for PBS Parents suggests helping a child “focus on the music with simple movement activities such as musical games, swaying or dancing while holding the baby, or singing or playing an instrument for the child.” These are some of the best ways to develop a love for music in a small child.
Parents could also sing Christmas carols with their children, hymns from church, or sing silly songs on long car rides to make the drive more enjoyable. Cutietta says that there is no need to get too formal with very young children; just make music an enjoyable experience. Cutietta points out that its more important to focus more on the goal of music lessons as opposed to when to start lessons. Cutietta says, “…very young children are not exposed to instruments in order to master them, but to gain experience and learn to develop meaningful relationships with music at a young age.” According to Cutietta, it is between the ages of six and nine when children are really capable of beginning to learn an instrument.
So, when it is time for more formal music lessons, what can parents do? There are lots of options. Many schools have a music program, and instrument rentals through a local music store are often available. If a child is homeschooled, there are often private teachers who specialize in teaching homeschooled children, and many of these teachers have band programs similar to what a school might have. There are also private lessons available through most music stores.
Remember to make music more than about learning to play an instrument. You can take your children to a musical production. If your town has a symphony orchestra, they probably have a performance with music geared more toward children. Music is a big part of the theater too. Taking children to an age appropriate theatrical production can be a great way to enhance a child’s interest in music. For example, it’s likely that your local performing arts center has a production of Peter and the Wolf on its calendar. And of course, play good music on your stereo at home.
Children seem to be naturally attracted to music. Just make music part of everyday life, and watch their interest grow.