Playing music can offer children many benefits and opportunities. Whilst they may well grow up and pursue other forms of performance or fine arts, physical or intellectual pursuits, I want my kids to have all the keys they need to the wonderful world of music.
So how can parents get their kids excited about playing musical instruments and creating sounds in natural, everyday ways?
Here are our top 5 categories of ways to motivate kids to create music.
1. LOVE MUSIC FIRST
They need to love and connect with it above all else. I’d suggest having music playing at every reasonable opportunity – mornings (the wrong song can cause friction so care required), weekends, bath time, in the car. Sing and dance, encourage active participation (don’t force it – they won’t always feel like it). Then sing some more.
Don’t forget from pretty early on music is everywhere – in lullabies (generally speaking), musical toys, then Wiggles and musical movies (heard of a little song called Let It Go?)
Access-to-music-wise, make your life easy – setup an account with a streaming service (don’t mess around, just use Spotify) and have a wireless speaker (not bluetooth, something reliable like Sonos) in the house. Every time they seem to like a song put it on a playlist for them for easy access or a spontaneous surprise at the right moment. Don’t be a snob (there are some great songs in Tinkerbell) but also teach them the classics…
2. MUSIC TALK & PLAY
Talk to them about what they would like to learn, explain to them the different instrument families (brass, percussion, string, woodwind). This is a cool little video.
It’s all about getting to know what they are thinking and interested in, you can always then steer them gently in another direction if the instrument is not appropriate for them right now. Tell them about musical theatre, orchestras, bands and all the different musical styles – rock n roll, jazz, classical (no need to mention EDM).
The other night we played music charades (ie “what instrument am I playing”). It’s a precursor to air guitar and it can certainly be educational.
3. A MUSIC SPACE
We had a great response to this piece about our music corner.
Jam with them (more here)…added bonus is it gets you playing!
Let them make noise (read this post) – and some kids’ instruments are crazy noisy – you will catch yourself telling them to keep it down but try and resist the urge.
Try taking them instrument shopping occasionally to keep the collection fresh – we recently found a little kid size bongo at a flea market and it’s my boy’s favourite toy now…they’re inseparable and he’s even (unintentionally) playing the main Billy Joel “Allentown” fill with good rhythm.
4. SEEK OUT LIVE MUSIC
Seek out family-friendly festivals and go up front, dancing with them or put them on your shoulders. This one’s a little bit less “every day” but for many a better option than a big commercial stadium show (beware the merch stall).
Stop at buskers or street/market performers and get them to drop the money in (bonus lesson in giving)…I know we parents are often rushing but what’s 120 seconds in the scheme of things for the greater good?
5. MUSIC APPS
Kind of the opposite to number 4 but if they’re going to have screen time, why not have an educational or creative option? There are some fantastic web and mobile apps out there for creating and playing with music (including but not limited to Melodu), and we’ll definitely publish a separate post on those later on.
I won’t go into preschool-age music classes here as we are suggesting mostly organic ways you can make this happen in normal life, however there are plenty of these around and many are fun and educational for the little people.
So that’s a wrap for now. We’d love some more ideas from you on what’s worked in your family.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not child psychologist and this isn’t attempting to be a better parenting blog. Also we have no incentive to mention the specific services listed below other than the fact that they represent quality and simplicity in hectic lives!