5 Notes on Teaching Children about Music

dancingwithdaddy
Dancing with Daddy

By Estelle Sobel Erasmus

Music has always been a part of my life. I was in chorale then choir in junior high and high school, and studied opera from the age of 11-18. I started out in Boston University as a voice major and transferred into communications by the end of my freshman year, mainly because I realized that the concept of waiting tables till I had my big break had little allure (of course, I didn’t realize that the equivalent was graduating and then taking on an oh-so-not-rewarding-for-me secretarial job to men and women less cultural than me).

It’s no wonder than that I decided to make music a large part of my daughter’s life, even before she came into the world. For example, when her name was just my and my husband’s little secret, I would sing every morning, “Good morning, Crystal. The earth says hello. You twinkle above us, we twinkle below. Good morning Crystal. You lead us along. My love and me as we sing our early morning singing song. Lippee lap loopee.” Well, you get the picture…

And when I was going in for my unexpected c-section after fifteen hours in hard labor, I asked the anesthesiologist if he wouldn’t mind it if I sang so that I wouldn’t be nervous while my doctor cut me open and took out my daughter. A rather robust (if slightly giddy, and probably too loud) rendition of “Sunrise, Sunset” was the staff’s, er, reward as my husband held my hand tightly and we welcomed our baby into the world.

Which in a roundabout way brings me to this point:

If you’ve ever wondered whether singing to your child can help his or her development, then ponder no further. The value of music in a child’s development is critical according to the latest research, cited in Psychological Science, which says that in a study of a group of children (ages 4-6) those children who received music training in rhythm and melody for two hours a day for 4 weeks, exhibited significant gains in verbal ability and improved self-control, attention and memory.

Besides offering children an opportunity to act silly, have fun and let loose; music can help develop language, concentration, social skills confidence and self-esteem.

According to music education expert Kenneth K. Guilmartin, Founder/Director of Music Together® which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2012, “All children are naturally musical.  Just as they are born with the potential to learn to speak and understand language, they have the ability to learn music from birth.”

Guilmartin offers some tips to help your children along on their musical journey. I’ve incorporated all these tips into my daughter’s upbringing and I highly recommend them.

Take a Chance; Sing and Dance: Kids learn through imitation. You know, if you read books and have a love of reading, they’ll want to read. If you sing and dance, they will, too. Making music doesn’t have to depend on playing a CD. Sing, bang a drum, get up and dance. Forget about hitting perfect notes or getting every word right. This is not American Idol! It’s about sharing your enjoying of music with your child.

Make Music Your Muse: Respond musically to cues from your child. For example, if your baby or toddler “coos” on a pitch, return the sound. Join in with your child if she starts singing in the car or when she’s playing. If your child brings you an instrument, or creates one, make sure to stop what you are doing and play along.

Show That Family Time is Sublime: Make music as a family. Initiate a dance party or a sing-along. Pull out the pots and pans and form a marching band. Try nixing TV time or technology (i.e., computer games) in favor of a fun, musical evening at home.

Say a “Sound” Goodnight: Create a regular bedtime routine by singing a lullaby, either alone or together. The soothing sound of your voice can give your child an oasis of calm in a busy day.

Don’t Pass on a Music Class: You may feel your schedule is already too busy to add one more activity to it. But don’t miss out on joining an early childhood music program that offers a rich musical experience in a fun, informal environment, without the pressure to “perform.”

All children can learn to sing in tune and move to the music, as long as you start them on that path early. Bottom line: “It’s not important that you sing or move well; its important that you model singing and moving for your child,” says Guilmartin.

So the next time your child is humming the theme to her favorite cartoon and rocking to the beat, make sure you join in and make some music together.

I know I’m glad I did–and still do.

How did you introduce your child/children to music?