Teaching Music to Children

There are many benefits that come from teaching music to children. Listening to music involves multiple parts of the brain. Music is a language with symbols, sounds, vocabulary, grammar and inflection in its communication. The simple act of hearing a rhythm stimulates the brain on both the left and right sides. Hearing and learning to play music helps the brain develop the potential to learn more effectively on a number of levels.

Music Teaching Tips for Parents
With so many benefits to music education, parents should take an active role in teaching kids to enjoy different types of music. Don't wait to start; newborns enjoy hearing music just as much as older children.

  • Play music at home. Expose children from the time they are infants to a wide variety of musical styles. Don't just play nursery tunes. Play classical, jazz, blues, cultural music, rock and whatever you like. The variety will stimulate brain development as your baby's brain makes connections to familiar melodies and instrument sounds. Try to avoid overly repetitive or hard to hear sounds, such as those found in some dance and heavy metal music. Babies tend to respond best to simple melodies and soothing sounds. Remember that too much volume can damage your baby's ears.
  • Sing to your children. Not just when they are babies, but when they are older. Seeing your love of music will encourage their interest as well. There's also a positive emotional connection to the bonding experience of singing together.
  • Talk about music, don't just have it in the background. Take time to tell your child about the musicians, singers, musical style, instruments, time period, etc. of the music you are playing.
  • Give your child musical experiences. Take her to concerts or musical performances that are age-appropriate. While a rock concert or a symphony may be too much for a child, a recital, outdoor festivals or kid-centered events are a great way to introduce musical experiences.
  • Give your child ways to make music. You don't need expensive instruments. Let him bang on a pot lid with a spoon, pluck rubber bands around a shoe box or play a toy xylophone. While electronic music toys are okay, avoid those that hamper creativity with preset melodies. Look for the ones that let the child control the sounds and musical notes.
  • Have fun with music. Sing funny songs. Encourage your child to add words or notes, or sing a familiar song in a different style, tempo or tone.

Reading and Playing Music
Music is at once a language, a form of emotional expression and a type of mathematics. Learning to read music and play an instrument gets many parts of the brain firing at once, from memory to logic to motor skill centers. Once your child is old enough, learning how to play a real musical instrument can be very beneficial.

A child will usually tell you when she is ready to learn an instrument and work on the basics of reading music. In general, a child who exhibits reading readiness may be able to start learning to read music as well.

Whether or not music lessons should begin depends on your child's patience and ability to practice regularly without losing interest. You might find that a music class with other children is a better choice than one-on-one lessons.

Learning to play can be frustrating at first, so be prepared to offer praise and reminders that some things take more practice than others. Be prepared for some unpleasant sounds around your home too. No matter how screechy the playing gets, stay interested and give praise. Sending your child to the basement or his room to practice shows a lack of interest on your part that will quickly transfer to your child.

Choosing an Instrument
Most kids can easily find their way around violins, violas, guitars and keyboards. Look for instruments that are the right size for your child. A child who is struggling to hold a heavy, oversized instrument won't be able to focus on learning or practicing. Little hands may struggle with the keys on a full-size piano but play well on a smaller electronic keyboard.

You don't need to buy right away. Many schools and music schools have instruments for rent that are very reasonable. Once your child shows a sustained interest in that instrument, you can purchase one. If not, you're not out a lot of money and it reduces pressure on the child as well. It is important to make learning music a positive experience for your child. A drum practice pad is less expensive than a full set of drums.

Give your child some freedom to decide on an instrument. One little-known key to building a love of music is for the child to have successful practice and progress in their instrument. This can only happen if the child likes the instrument's sound and feel and enjoys playing it. If you have to nag your child to practice, she will get resentful and create a power struggle with you that will undermine the positive potential of the music, instrument and lessons.

Set realistic practice goals. An hour a day is unrealistic for a child under the age of nine. A few 15-minute sessions spread over the week can be just as beneficial. Allowing the child to choose a practice time, as long as it's at least once a day, puts the child in charge, which is positive in itself.

Children who enjoy an instrument and get better playing it don't need to be nagged to practice. They will choose to practice for the joy of playing and learning. You can encourage this a little by offering a reward or praise after your child takes it upon himself to practice his lessons.

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