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Today I’m excited to welcome my real-life friend Carly as a guest blogger! Carly and I lived in the same town until her family moved out west. When I was expecting my second, she was expecting her first. Since then those babies have turned five years old, and Carly’s family has grown with the addition of an irresistible little boy. Since that time, Carly has begun an amazing online (and oh, so affordable!) online piano course.
Mozart and Chopin were born musical geniuses.
That’s great for them. But it doesn’t mean that if your child didn’t come out of the womb singing with perfect pitch — or end up composing a symphony in kindergarten — that you’re out of luck. You CAN raise a musical child who LOVES music by nurturing and instructing him, and providing him with a musically-rich environment.
How to raise a musical child
Before I start throwing ideas at you, let’s define what I mean by a musical child: a musical child will have knowledge and understanding about music AND be able to feel the expression and soul of music. While music enhances all learning, and there is study after study that points to greater academic success for children who study musical instruments, I’m going to argue that learning about and possessing a love for music are important in giving your child a rich and meaningful life.
That’s an awfully big statement to make, but as a music teacher, piano student and mom, it is a belief that I very much stand behind. And raising a child who both possesses musicality and loves music isn’t complicated. Here are a few ideas:
Create a Musically-Rich Environment
Begin singing to your child from his first moments. It doesn’t matter how lousy of a singer you think you are, because the sound of YOUR VOICE is your baby’s most favorite sound in the whole world. Have music in a variety of styles play in the background of your home. Just as your child learns his earliest words and babbles from listening to you talk to him, so too will he learn about the basic music fundamentals from hearing songs repeatedly sung to him. As your child gets older, make general observations about the music you are listening to or ask your child questions about it:
I love the mood the flutes create in this piece.
Does this music make you want to move quickly or slowly?
This folk music is so fun.
What instruments do you hear in this piece?
Fill your home with lots of musical toys that encourage your kiddos to participate in music-making. Read children’s picture books about music. Encourage your child to participate in the choir at church or school. Take your little one to family concerts, the ballet or the symphony.
Be A Musical Role Model
I realize you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, “Easy for you to say…you’re a piano teacher!” But you don’t need to be a proficient instrumentalist to share in music-making experiences with your child. If you played trumpet for a few years in the middle school band, dust off your trumpet and play a few tunes for your little one. Or better yet — take up music lessons WITH your child.
My daughter is currently taking ukulele — an instrument I know absolutely nothing about — and I’m having fun learning and practicing with her. She loves when I attempt her practicing homework, giggling at me and correcting me whenever I make a mistake. I don’t WOW her with my playing — but she loves seeing me struggle with something and having fun as I learn alongside her.
Enroll Your Child in Music Lessons
You knew this was coming, right? But honestly, I think giving your child the gift of music is one of the most worthwhile things you can give her. When she is sixty, she probably won’t be dancing ballet or playing tennis, but she will be still be able to sit at the piano and play her favorite Beethoven sonatas.As far as when to begin lessons, I am a big fan of beginning musical instruction early. When you start musical instruction early in your child’s life, you enhance his musical aptitude.
I’m a huge believer in parent-child music classes for babies and toddlers that surround little ones with music and song and help give parents ideas for musical play at home. Some of these classes cost money, but you may also be able to find free classes offered at your local library. Between ages four and nine, your child will be ready to begin learning an instrument.
Just as important as finding an instrument that interests your child is finding a teacher who is well-suited for your little one’s personality and learning style. If your child is younger, find a really warm, fun and friendly teacher who is willing to keep things playful when needed. When your child becomes more proficient at his instrument, you may wish to seek out a more disciplined teacher who has experience working with advanced musicians.
Be involved in his music lessons by helping him practice (when he is young). When he begins to practice independently, turn off the television and sit near him, reading a book or simply taking in his music while he practices, so that he knows you enjoy listening to him make music. Show excitement and interest in what he is learning and be supportive of him wanting to play for recitals, talent shows or for Grandma.
Raising kids who possess appreciation and skills for music does take commitment, but the rewards are many…and lifelong.
Carly Seifert is a mom to two kids, a piano teacher, and creator of Busy Kids Do Piano.