How to Nurture Your Young Child’s Love of Music

Most adults know there are so many benefits to having a love for music. This sense of comfort and appreciation for music doesn’t just suddenly arrive spontaneously. Children acquire a taste for it, just like learning to love applesauce. When music becomes a part of everyday life and is incorporated into the family, there is a sense of familiarity that a child grows attached to.

I grew up in a household where there was always classical music playing on the radio, and my parents had a huge assortment of folk music records (you know the black vinyl overgrown CD-looking things) – so we all loved folk music, as well.

I still remember my younger sister dancing around in her diaper and singing Simon & Garfunkel songs at age three. This was a child that truly loved music! When we were a bit older, my parents took us to outdoor concerts and to an occasional coffeehouse performance. Long car rides were sometimes a place where we would listen to music or maybe even sing or hum. And, as a kid, I sang in the “junior choir” at church, then later took flute lessons, both privately and in school, which continued throughout college.

Music was a familiar and comfortable part of our family life. Everyone has a different story about their relationship to music, but the important thing is that children have the opportunity to form that connection. It’s all about having fun and creating memories, centered
around music.

Below are five ways that you can nurture your child’s love for music, including some information about the different types of music classes that are available for young children across the country, and specifically, in the Greater New Haven area, including at Neighborhood Music School.

1) Listen to Music Together

Listening to music with your children is a great way to nurture a love for it, whether you’re at home, in the car on the way to do errands, or visiting a relative.

It’s a great way to help children calm down and re-focus their energy or to help redirect them after an outburst or tantrum.

Music can help ease the challenges that transitions can present. Young children may respond to hearing a particular song played each day when it’s time to clean up all the toys strewn across the floor, or when it’s time for that afternoon nap. Many preschools implement this strategy with great success. Check out this article from First for Women magazine for some tips on using music to help kids clean up.

2) Sing Together

Singing together is another way to have fun as a family and enjoy music with others. Kids love to learn simple songs, and this can help enrich their vocabulary and improve their listening skills.

Children love to have a special song to sing with a parent, which can become a familiar part of their bedtime routine. It’s great to use every opportunity you can to connect a special song with experiences of comfort and nurturing. This helps children develop a fondness for music. Learning the words to songs from a favorite movie is another nice way for kids and parents to bond, while also working on memorization skills. It can even be fun to make up your own lyrics together!

3) Make a Recording Together

 Recording music with your child is another good bonding activity. Watch the reaction on your child’s face as he or she observes a digital phone recording of themselves, singing a silly song, or even trying out an instrument.

Kids are fascinated with seeing themselves on camera, and it’s even more fun for them to hear their own voices. The process of doing this together is the most important part.

Always make it fun, and don’t focus too much on the finished product.

4) Attend a Concert Together

Going to a concert together can be a great adventure. Whether you pack the kids up for a performance in the park, or bring them along to a coffeehouse, experiencing music as part of an audience can make a big impression.

Of course, you want to be cautious about exposing them to appropriate sound levels, musical lyrics, and being in a child-friendly environment.

Taking a toddler to a formal, classical concert can be a recipe for disaster, both for you and the performers. Young children don’t know that it’s not acceptable to speak loudly or run around during an adult concert. There are rules of etiquette that you can introduce as they get older.

Try starting with a musical event targeted just for children. At a children’s concert, you can expect to see other families with squirmy kids and maybe even some interactive singing or dancing.

Before going to the concert, you can talk about specific instruments that will be played, or what songs will be sung. It helps to verbalize for your child what kind of behavior will be expected in the concert environment. Hopefully, you can leave a children’s concert with good feelings all around, and a positive, fun experience centered around music that your child will carry with them into the future.  

5) Take a Music Class Together

Music classes for young children are also a great way to encourage your child’s love of the arts. You can find music & movement classes that parents and young children can take together, where they can explore, have fun, sing, dance, and learn about rhythm, movement and sound.

Research has shown that learning about music helps support overall child development. According to Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf, an expert in the effect of music on early childhood development, there are several reasons why music is so critical to healthy development and a successful future, starting at a young age.  Her report, Why Making Music Matters, was commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation.

Early Childhood Music & Movement classes can be perfect for a child who is not yet ready for music lessons but has shown an interest and curiosity about music in general.

Classes for babies and toddlers usually require an adult to attend along with the child, and children who are older (5 years or more) can generally attend alone.

Younger classes tend to run about 45 minutes long, whereas older child classes can run for an hour.

Parents can benefit from music & movement classes as well, enjoying the opportunity to socialize with other parents or caregivers and bonding with their little ones as they learn.

Next Steps

Children’s music & movement classes come with many different names, and some are nationwide franchises, but most offer very similar elements. Usually, they are taught by someone with a music and/or early childhood education background; a scientifically-based curriculum is commonly what the classes are built upon; and they offer different classes for varying age groups programs such as Music Together can be found at libraries, churches and community centers across the country, where groups of parents or caregivers gather with their babies, toddlers, preschoolers or older (birth to age 8) and, led by a teacher, make music while connecting with each other.

The classes involve tapping and stomping and clapping and listening to different rhythms. Caregivers and children get to be silly together, move around and even sing together.

Kindermusik is another franchised program that offers structured classes for young children and their parents, with a focus on expressive language, whole body movement, social- emotional development, musical skills, sensory awareness, cognition, fine motor skills and receptive language.

In the Greater New Haven area, there is a group called Musical Folk, which offers Music Together classes in several different towns. There are also a wide variety of Early Childhood Music & Movement Classes offered at Neighborhood Music School (NMS) in New Haven.

NMS teachers draw from the great giants of early childhood music educators to create a curriculum that is uniquely suited to each group of students. Elements of Orff, Dalcroze, Feierabend, Suzuki and others are employed to create a personalized blend.

Early Childhood Music & Movement

Classes for younger children (ages 6 months through 3½ years) are designed to include a parent or other adult. Older children (ages 3 through 6) continue their musical development and explore their independence in classes without a parent present. You can choose from several different classes:

Toddlers

Music & Motion with Parent (for 6-24 mos & 2-3 year olds) which is a first experience in music, awakens the natural beat within every child. Children experience pulse and rhythm through bouncing, kicking, crawling and, later, walking. Playful song activities are chosen carefully to foster early language development while introducing pitch, phrasing, tempo and dynamics. Age-appropriate rhythm instruments help develop fundamental motor skills. Parents or caretakers share in the experience with their child.

Older Children

For the older, more independent child, there’s  Music in Motion III (3,4 & 5 year olds) in this first solo class without a parent, preschoolers are exposed to a world of dramatic and imaginative play, using their natural creativity to explore the world of music. Pitch, rhythm and beat-keeping are further expanded through stories, singing and instrument play. Skipping, leaping, galloping and group circle dances expand their movement repertoire. In this class we take advantage of the great learning environment of NMS and visit other teaching studios where students are introduced to a range of instruments by skilled teachers.

There is also Yoga Musical Adventures (for 3 – 4 year olds). This class will help your child be active, relieve stress and stay positive! Children will learn basic yoga positions and relaxations through simple and fun stories intertwined with songs.

Older kids may like Drumming & Stomping (for 5 & 6 year olds). This class helps students develop a solid musical foundation and prepares them for instrumental study. Using classic African songs (such as “Funga Alafia” and “Siyahamba”) and other rhythmic material, students will sing, play percussion instruments (djembes, congas, rhythm sticks, body percussion, wood blocks and agogos), and march to the rhythms. This engaging drum circle format is incredibly fun, but also gives students the opportunity to learn the basics of melody, harmony, rhythm, composition and improvisation.  

So, while this is a lot to think about, you now have some solid information about things you can do to help your child grow up with a love of music.

If you have questions about the wide variety of Early Childhood Music & Movement classes

offered at Neighborhood Music School, visit the NMS website  or call the main office at 203-624-5189 and ask to speak with a Student Services representative. Someone will be happy to help you out!