This post was originally published April 5, 2011 on aquietsimplelife.com. That blog is being taken off the web, so Sallie gave me permission to reprint it here. Enjoy!
I have worked as a Christian school music teacher and a music therapist in the past, and currently teach piano lessons and play piano at my church. I am a full-time homeschooling mom, and part-time writer. Music has always been part of my life, and I enjoy sharing it with my children.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy music with your children is to listen to different styles of music. Introduce them to your favorites, and explore new genres together. You can buy CD’s, borrow them from the library or friends, or simply tune in to different radio stations. When you listen, tell them what type of music it is (i.e. classical, jazz, rock, country, etc.) If possible, tell them about the artist or composer. Generally a search on the internet will yield information, and there are many illustrated children’s biographies available.
While you are listening, give the children something to actively listen for. Examples would be a particular phrase (i.e. “e-i-e-i-o” in Old MacDonald), or when the music gets louder or softer, or a particular instrument. Ask them to do something when they hear whatever they are searching for, such as sing along, or raise their hands. For really active children, have them try to sit still until that moment, when they get to jump up!
Moving to music is fun for most kids. Activities could include marching or dancing to the beat, playing instruments, or clapping. Try to have them listen for a certain element of the music and use their movements to describe it. For example, they could reach high if the tune gets higher in pitch and crouch down to the floor as it gets lower, or make bigger movements when the music gets louder and smaller ones when it gets softer.
Artistic-minded children enjoy drawing to music. Let them listen, and draw or paint. It might be an abstract work, or a picture of something they “see” in the music. This works especially well with instrumental music.
If you have a piano at home, I would encourage you to let your children play, even if they don’t know what they’re playing. Don’t let them bang on it with toys or fists, but teach them to use their fingers on the keys. It is sometimes difficult to listen to the cacophony which results from this free play, but your child may surprise you with a masterpiece. Also, let them listen to songs as many times as they want. My son became obsessed with listening to “Red River Valley” from an audiobook he had checked out at the library. To my surprise, after listening it to what seemed like a million times, he went to the piano and picked out the notes! At that time he was not taking piano lessons, and would not have been able to read the music for that song if he had it. At the same time, my 2-year-old managed to learn all the words, and they put on a concert! You never know what kids can do when you let them experiment.
Music is all around us. It is part of every culture. Giving your children a good start in music will help them to relate to their world better, and the more diverse their experience, the better equipped they will be to understand the music they are exposed to as they go through life.
For more ideas and information about this subject, please visit my website, Music At Home.