Once upon a time, music was (and I’m not even being dramatic here) my life. I was obsessive about what I listened to and probably spent an unhealthily disproportionate amount of time writing songs, playing the guitar (um, badly) and singing (less badly).
I’d have been really surprised and a bit depressed back then if you’d told me that there would come a time when I didn’t make much room for this interest. My guitars now hang on the walls, untouched and missing strings, like sad emblems of a time gone by.
That is a shame on so many levels, especially since I want to help my children explore and develop their natural love of music.
So, to prompt myself more than anything, I’ve had a look around and put together a few ideas on introducing under-fives to music. I also breathed a sigh of relief when I realised I’m actually already doing quite a lot.
1. Play it yourself!
Every day, I’m reminded at least a dozen times that children primarily learn from what we model. They come to value learning, practising and playing by seeing us do just that. I’m realistically not going to manage to work on anything complex at the moment but I can at least go and buy the missing strings, tune up the electro-acoustic guitar and get singing The Wheels on the Bus!
On the bright side, I’m kind of doing this already. I joined a local a capella group last term and Talitha loves listening to me learn my parts. She often joins in. She was truly delighted to see us perform just before Christmas.
2. Create a banging wall
We are working hard in the garden at the moment. The greenhouse is almost done, lots of vegetables are growing, we’ve just bought a chicken coop and my thoughts have turned to what fun kid-specific things we could make. A banging wall is definitely on the list. I love the look of this one over on A Life Sustained and have been collected lots of bangable items to include. And better yet, Talitha can get involved in making it.
3. Listen to a variety of music
We have had periods of solidly listening to The Wheels on the Bus (literally that one song, over and over) or the Frozen soundtrack but even then, I’ve been able to sneak in the odd other bit of music to mix things up. I try to include a wide variety, classical, folk, music from other cultures. It’s personally important to me that they grow up recognising music from the Caribbean since that’s where I’m from and I always make sure to point out steel pan if I hear it anywhere.
4. Go to performances
Along similar lines, little ones seem to get a lot from the atmosphere of a live performance. Classical concerts aimed at children are popping up everywhere (we’re looking forward to checking out Lilliput Concerts some time soon) and festivals can be truly magical for families.
5. Watch videos of people playing, especially children
We talk a lot about what instrument we can hear in a song and look for pictures of it. There’s really nothing quite like seeing someone play it, though, and I think children find it particularly inspiring to see other children playing.
6. Playfully introduce theory
There are lots of ideas for doing this, even if your own grasp on musical theory is not so firm. We use a CD & book course called Moosicology which teaches theory through fun songs with actions and pictures. There are loads on Montessori ideas on Pinterest, incorporating props into musical learning.
7. Dance in the living room
Have a good old dance (with scarves or flags even) and children are exploring tempo and mood without even realising it.
8. Display musical instruments
I’ve been rearranging our playroom recently to make things as functional and appealing as possible. The musical instruments (shakers, xylophone, drum, etc) used to sit in a box with an assortment of toys and the girls hardly ever played with them. Display them on a shelf, however, and suddenly they are necessary equipment for so many of our days’ activities.
9. Sing together
Sing along with your child, informally, from in the car (I have to be careful with this as I’m still a relatively new driver and can find it distracting) to the kitchen. We sometimes sing along to tracks for my a capella group. I’d like to start going along to a singing group with my children and look forward to the day when we can sing in harmony.
10. Make instruments
This is another fun way to explore music together. We’ve made egg shakers and maracas (we call them chac chacs) and a rain stick is next on our list. I have to say I am really looking forward to introducing one of them to their first real guitar though.
I know there’s probably lots I haven’t considered so I’m really open to any suggestions you’d like to add.
This is a collaborative post.