When our children are young and exploring the world of babyhood, our attention as parents is frequently focused on developmental milestones such as walking, talking or eating finger foods. As they enter toddlerhood and begin to explore learning colors, letters and numbers, we will begin to see not only their knowledge of the basics expanding, but we’ll also begin to see their personalities and interests really begin to take on definition. Many of these interests will mimic what they see their parents enjoying, so if we like to watch football or enjoy certain television programs, our children may show an affinity for these as well.
Music is one of the most universal parts of human life; every culture has its own unique take on music. The enjoyment of music has a profound effect on children as they grow and learn, and nurturing that love, and possible talent, from an early age is very important.
Discovering the world of music
Our children’s earliest experience with music will most likely be in the soft songs used to soothe them to sleep or calm them when upset. As they grow older and are exposed to recorded music and the sounds of live instruments, they will naturally be attracted to certain sounds and styles more than others. These may not match up with our own personal tastes; many the rock-and-roll mom or dad has a country son or rhythm-and-blues daughter. The important thing to remember as children take an interest in music and explore being musical is that you are trying to nurture their love for music, not their love for your music.
When children start to show an interest in making music, introducing them to instruments and the basics of making music may begin. If mom and dad are musically inclined, it is easy enough to assist the children in learning to read sheet music or tap out a simple tune on a piano or keyboard. Once some basics have been introduced, and if the child still has an interest in learning more, taking formal music lessons may be in order. Piano and violin are the most common instruments on which young musicians begin, especially very young ones. However, you have to consider your child’s age, as well as the likelihood that they will want to practice. Forcing a child to take lessons and play an instrument that they no longer enjoy will have a lasting negative effect on their appreciation of music and making music.
Your child’s first experience of learning to play an instrument or singing may actually be at school. Building homemade instruments and singing traditional children's songs are a major part of early childhood education beginning in the preschool and kindergarten years. Most grade schools also have music programs of some sort that include a general music class, where children may learn about the history and culture of music from around the world, throughout the centuries, as well as music lessons that teach your children the basics of standard marching and concert instruments such as the clarinet, flute or trumpet. Most schools also have a band or orchestra that is open for students with basic skills to join as well as a chorus or choir for eager young singers.
Nurturing your young child’s enjoyment of music
The positive effects of music on children as they grow cannot be underestimated. Music can teach us about discipline, about diversity and about collaboration. Music education also has a profound effect on our ability to process sound; studies at the Auditory Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University have revealed that as little as one year of musical training can improve our ability to hear and to remember sounds, all important skills in school.
Nurturing your child’s love for music means listening to all kinds of music, from rock and reggae, country to classical, and everything in between. Do not forget opera and musicals either; both of these feature songs that tell stories as hallmarks, as do many children’s movies. Encourage them to sing and dance as ways of expressing feelings, answering questions and telling stories. Make music a part of family life as well, whether it’s playing instruments together, singing songs or seeing regular musical performances.
Music is one of the most universal areas in which children will demonstrate interest; some of the earliest memories that many of us have of our own childhood is of being sung to or of hearing certain songs on the radio. Beyond the enjoyment of the music itself, taking an interest in music and its creation can have many positive effects on your child, providing an outlet for creative expression and personal expression.