Hints and tips for developing kids’ love of music and making music part of your everyday life thanks to our local musician and dad, Chris.
Having been a professional musician for well over a decade, I very much hope my kids grow to love music as much as I do. In addition to being a wonderfully fulfilling career, music plays a role in my life that nothing else could ever begin to replace, and I’d love to share this passion with them.
I’m not going to impose music on them by insisting they learn piano or singing or whatever. If I do that, it’ll likely become a chore – something to endure, not something to relish. I believe they need to come to music entirely on their own terms.
Of course, there are ways to guide kids to their own appreciation of and love for music. These are the things I’m doing with my own kids, arranged in order from easy to difficult. You might like to try these as well…
Developing a Passion for Music in Children:
Less TV, more music
Rather than leaving the TV on ABC4Kids all day, we tune it to a digital radio station (all TVs can access these). Without a TV to stare at, they start searching for other things to do – drawing, reading, playing with toys. We think that’s healthier – and the mood always seems lifted with music playing as the background to our lives.
Play music in the car
I’ve recently put together a playlist for car trips with the girls, basically comprised of songs I enjoy singing along with. When kids see a parent happily singing along, tapping the steering wheel to the beat, dancing in their seat, they understand that music is a fun thing and they’ll start emulating you.
Play a variety of different music
ABC would have you believe the only music suitable for kids is stuff about birthday cake or friendly dinosaurs. That’s nonsense. Avoid stuff with explicit lyrics, sure, but that still leaves the vast majority of the world’s recorded music. Rock, classical, jazz, whatever. It’s all good. Diversity is the key.
(Side note from the Baby Hints & Tips Team, you may also like to check out Little Rockers Radio, a station aimed just at kids! Variety in content and nothing you need worry about lyric wise!)
Sing to them
When putting Kara, my eldest (20 months), to bed, after I read her a story I sing her a little bedtime song while tapping her leg in time. It’s the song my own dad sang to me at bedtime, just a short little 30-second thing, but it’s part of a routine and always helps her wind down ready for sleep. She loves being sung to, and the way she looks at me while I sing to her… I can’t begin to describe how it feels. Add music to your night time routine with a special song of your own.
Provide toy instruments
For Christmas the girls were given a little pack of toy instruments – harmonica, tambourine, castanets, maracas, recorder. Over the years we’ve also accumulated a glockenspiel, a drum and a little keyboard with microphone. Kara LOVES these things. The first time she discovered the glockenspiel was absolutely hilarious – she delightedly hammered it with the beater and yelled along with a huge grin for five minutes straight. She similarly loves beating the drum, particularly when someone holds it for her and plays with her. Having tools to make music will definitely be part of the journey to loving music.
Take them to see live music
There’s plenty of live music happening all over the place – shopping centres, clubs & RSLs, family-friendly pubs on Sunday afternoons, fetes, the Sydney Festival. Kids are always entranced by live musicians.
Dance with them
Put on some music with a good solid beat to it, nice and loud, and dance around the room with them. Put on something slower and have them stand on your feet while you walk around the room. Take their hands in yours and clap them in time. Kneel in front of them and encourage them to dance, jump and spin on their own.
Dance with your other half
When possible, kids LOVE to see their parent’s dancing together; it’ll encourage them even more to give it a go themselves. And dancing with your partner in front of your kids is one of the loveliest, sweetest things you’ll ever do. (And that’s from a guy with two left feet who hates dancing).
Have REAL instruments around the house
Guitars are extremely cheap these days – they sell them at Aldi occasionally – and kids love strumming them. Dig out that old recorder if you kept it from primary school, or buy one for $5. If you’re lucky enough to have the space, you can often find free upright pianos on Gumtree. Having these around and accessible to kids is a great way of introducing the concept of making music, and how much fun it is.
Learn how to play a song or two
It doesn’t take years of training to learn to play a simple song or two on guitar. There are hundreds of songbooks aimed at complete beginner guitarists, showing tablature chords (the way you configure your fingers on the frets) and lyrics below. $100 for a guitar and book, and a month or two of reasonably dedicated practice, and you’ll sound like you know what you’re doing – and you might find yourself enjoying it too. It’s NEVER too late to start!
Write a song for your kids
You don’t have to be a musician to write lyrics. When you have some lyrics you like, try singing them. If you have any musician friends, ask if they’d be willing to turn your lyrics into a song. I’ve done this for a few friends over the years, as well as having written my own, and know a bunch of other musician friends who have done the same.
Become a professional musician (I did say these were arranged easiest to hardest!)
Takes somewhere between ten and twenty years, then you can bring them to your shows and get them up on stage looking wide-eyed and shy and absolutely gorgeous whilst you sing “My Girl” to them, and have the entire audience go “nawwwww”. It’s bl**dy great. (Okay well maybe that’s not for everyone!)
In the end – it’s all about exposure!
Make music a part of your child’s landscape growing up and they’ll become as appreciative of it as anyone. And please treat this article as written permission to – if you choose – ban The Wiggles from your life henceforth. But whatever music they choose, any is better than none. A life rich in creativity is a fulfilling journey so adding music to your children day is opening them up to a beautiful, musical world.
Image Credits: In Bloom Photography. Yes the babies on the instruments are Chris’ children. Amazing yes?