How to Introduce Your Child to Music (And the Benefits of Doing So)
You love music. You loved listening to it as a child, and you still love it. Maybe you love it so much you took music lessons as a kid.
Now you have your own children, and you want to introduce them to music, but don’t quite know where or how to start. There’s so much music out there! Your newborn isn’t going to understand your music or even standard children’s music. You’re afraid of stunting your child’s mental and emotional growth with the wrong music.
What do you do?
There is a way to introduce your child to music that doesn’t involve difficult decisions, and you can start when your child is still a baby. We’ve outlined how to do it and why you should so you can learn exactly what to do.
- How to Introduce Your Child to Music
- When You Should Start
- Three Easy Things You Can Do While Your Child Is Still Young
- Why Should You Introduce Your Child to Music?
- Music Is Educational in More Ways than One
- How Music Soothes Your Child
- Bonding Time
- What Kinds of Music Should You Choose?
- Different Types of Music
- Are Some Types Better than Others?
- Whether to Move on to Formal Music Lessons
- You and Your Child Will Benefit Immensely from Music
How to Introduce Your Child to Music
There’s no single correct way to introduce your child to music. However, we have a few different approaches that will make the whole process easy and fun for both of you. You don’t have to start with formal lessons, and indeed, you shouldn’t take that route first.
Your child begins interpreting, and even using music when they’re still babies. Your 18-month old is way too young to start formal lessons, whereas your six-year-old probably isn’t. However, you can always introduce your child to music long before you ever consider formal lessons.
The earlier you start, the more benefits they’ll receive from music, even if they never take up an instrument. It will also help you and your child decide if and when to start formal lessons.
When You Should Start
We already touched on the fact that babies interpret and use music. Of course, it’s not the music you’re used to. They won’t belt out any melody you know at first.
Generally, most babies’ hearing develops quickly, and they often start responding to music shortly after birth. They even begin babbling musically before they can speak and might start making up their own little songs.
This is a prime time to start introducing your child to music. You already hold them, rock them, feed them, and put them to bed. At this age, you can just hum meandering tunes or sing softly to them.
Don’t worry about whatever you’ve heard about the “best types of music” for your child. Children begin building musical pathways very young, and you’re encouraging those pathways to grow and new ones to form. Go with music you enjoy, whether it’s rock, classical, favorite lullabies from when you were a child, whatever.
The bottom line here is this: If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, your child won’t, either. So you don’t need to stick to lullabies or classical music. There’s nothing wrong with softly crooning the musical stylings of your favorite bands and singers.
Three Easy Things You Can Do While Your Child Is Still Young
What can you do first? We’ve mentioned some things above, but here are three easy things you can do to help your child with music.
Get Them Moving
You don’t have to teach your child to dance, per se. But very young children learn better actively than passively. Even your baby can wave their hands in the air in time to music. If they’re walking, encourage them to march, hop, or even spin around while you’re listening to music.
In addition to using your own music, children’s music that incorporates hand and body movements works very well. Some excellent songs for younger children include, “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “The Wheels on the Bus,” while songs for children who can walk and have a little coordination might include something like, “The Hokey Pokey.”
Any way to get your child actively involved with the music they hear will help them gain essential skills as well as enjoy music.
We all have that one person in our lives who can listen to one song repeatedly for all of eternity, give or take an eon. Perhaps you are that person, and you drive everyone in your life nuts.
However, if your child decides that they want to hear the same few songs repeatedly, don’t discourage it. Children learn well with repetition.
You don’t want them to get stuck on those few songs, but don’t get annoyed when they want to hear their favorite songs several times in a row.
Instruments like shakers, bells, and tambourines, triangles, and rain sticks work very well for helping toddlers learn the beat of a song.
Children that have gained some coordination with shaker instruments can move on to child-sized cymbals, drums, and xylophones. Older children might do well with something like a recorder. At that point, they can begin learning to play simple songs like, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
Why Should You Introduce Your Child to Music?
Why should you introduce your child to music if the ultimate goal isn’t for them to become a professional musician?
There are a few reasons you should do it. While society tends to trivialize music as unnecessary to learning, that’s actually not true. The pathways that respond and grow with music are the same pathways that process math and language.
Of course, your child will learn those things regardless, but music will make them easier and help them be better at those things in school.
Music Is Educational in More Ways than One
How is music educational? We have just a few ways music can aid your child’s early education.
Music is mathematical. First and foremost, you’ll find many songs that use counting. Also, since you generally find music arranged in counts of two, three, four, six, and eight, that can help build and reinforce your child’s counting abilities.
Much of the math behind music is incredibly complex. However, in addition to counting, music teaches your child how to make comparisons, identify patterns, and match words, beats, and pitches. These help your child develop the building blocks of crucial components of more advanced math.
Many children’s songs, like “This Old Man,” “Old McDonald,” and “There Was an Old Woman,” require you to remember what you sang before. Memory exercises are good, but your child won’t want to do any of them if they aren’t fun.
You can play memory games and you can use specific music to help them build and refine their memory. If they later decide to take lessons, having a good memory will help a lot with that as well as other things.
Language and Reading Skills
Whether they’re children’s songs or not, songs often rhyme, which is a critical language skill for your child. Children who have little understanding of rhyming tend to have problems with language learning when they reach kindergarten.
While you can also use poetry and children’s books to teach rhyming, music likewise helps to teach and reinforce it. This, in turn, helps them with literacy.
Music is art, and art is creative. If your child understands music, even at a basic level, they can expand their creativity in much the same way that drawing and other creative pursuits do.
You might think we’re talking about composition. That’s not necessarily true, although your child making up their own little pieces on their musical toy certainly shows a degree of creativity. Making up new words and phrases to old, familiar songs stimulates creativity as well.
How Music Soothes Your Child
Have you ever been listening to a perfect song that just gives you this feeling of peace and tranquility? Music is great for relaxing when you’re an adult. It’s why massage therapists, acupuncturists, and others play certain music in the background in their offices.
Music soothes your child, too, whether they’re a baby or in kindergarten (or older). Some music works better than others, such as lullabies and the quiet background music that helps so many people with their concentration. Music that helps you feel tranquil, calm, and at ease will likely help your child as well.
Using music to care for and interact with your child strengthens the bond between you. You can play music to which you and your child like moving for chore time. Singing softly when it’s time to put your child to bed teaches them a “time to sleep” cue and helps strengthen your relationship, particularly before your child is old enough to understand stories.
You can also use music in an almost conversational way. Sing an easy song and leave the last line or word, encouraging your child to supply it or your baby to coo, grunt, or even give a short string of babble in response.
What Kinds of Music Should You Choose?
If you’ve ever heard of the Mozart effect, you may believe that classical music, notably Mozart’s, will help your child become smarter.
If that’s true, you might feel inclined to play classical music from famous composers like Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and more. However, the Mozart effect is unproven and might prevent your child from reaping the full benefits of an early introduction to music.
Different Types of Music
Besides classical, there are several different types of music that work well:
- Creative focus music
- Pop, rock, and alternative (age-appropriate)
- Spelling and counting songs (e.g., the Jackson 5’s “ABC, 123.”)
- Songs with nonsense syllables for lyrics
- Songs from musicals
Often, your child will pick up on something you’re listening to in the car or while you’re doing housework and decide they like it, even if they don’t understand it. Encourage that. Don’t limit yourself to children’s music passed down from your parents or children’s programs. Not only will you limit your child’s musical exposure that way, but you might also just go nuts.
Are Some Types Better than Others?
Not really. What works best depends on music to which your child responds best and what you enjoy. With things like pop and rock, you should probably try to remain age-appropriate. However, there’s no one genre or category of music that works better than all the others. As long as you enjoy it, you make it that much more likely your child will enjoy it, too.
Whether to Move on to Formal Music Lessons
Now you might be thinking, “When should I move on to formal lessons?” There’s no one correct answer to that. Generally, there’s a window of opportunity for formal lessons, which is between ages four and nine.
One way to determine whether your child might want to try music lessons is to see if they’ve taken a keen interest in a specific type of instrument or music. Maybe they seem unusually tuned into toy guitars, or perhaps they’ve developed a fascination with stringed instruments like the ukelele.
If you want to start them on the younger side of that window, start with piano or violin, or another lightweight instrument or one they don’t have to hold. As they get older and develop their musical understanding and abilities, they may want to move onto bigger and heavier instruments.
You and Your Child Will Benefit Immensely from Music
Introducing your child to music doesn’t have to start with formal music lessons. You can start before your baby starts talking. And the earlier you start, the better its effects.
Children benefit from music in several ways, including essential skills like math, reading, and language skills. It also helps you communicate with them, set up routines, encourage creativity, and so much more.
You don’t need to worry about sticking to Mozart, either. You can use classical music, but it’s not the only type of music from which your child will benefit. In fact, your child will benefit more from music you enjoy. That includes your favorite songs on Spotify.
If you start early and work slowly, you can see how your child responds to music and how it furthers their development and strengthens your bond with them.