Maybe you’re a musician wanting your kid to follow in your footsteps. Or maybe you just want to give your child the gift of musical know-how. Either way, it’s natural that as a parent or caregiver you want to get your child involved in music. But it’s not easy to know where to start and you might even worry about getting it wrong.
Thankfully, getting kids into music is easy. If you provide the love, support, and resources they need, your child will do the rest!
What are the benefits of getting my child involved in music?
Whatever your age, learning to play a musical instrument is good for you (the info graphic Musician Lab below explains it well!) But there are numerous studies showing how learning to play an instrument as a child is especially beneficial. From improving mental processing to protecting the brain in old age, encouraging your child to play music will set them up for success.
What are the best ways to get children involved in music?
The best methods to enable your child to explore their own musical path depend on the age of your child. The basic approach is always the same, though – providing loving encouragement and support.
Getting young children into music
With young children (0 – 7ish), it’s best to keep musical learning informal by simply incorporating it into daily life. The aim is to spark their interest in music and develop the basic skills that they will build on later. There are lots of fun ways to do this – here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Listen to music together: Hearing music will pique a child’s interest and help to develop their listening skills. Kids develop musical preferences from a very young age, and what they like can be surprising. Don’t feel you need to stick to “kids’ music!” As wide a variety of styles as possible is the way to go.
- Dance as often as possible: Dancing helps to develop rhythm and confidence – both very useful at all stages of life! Kids love dancing. Seeing you dance too will reduce the likelihood of them stopping as they get older and more self-conscious. It’s also great fun and good exercise!
- Try parent and child music classes: Fun, informal parent and child music groups are a great way to develop musical skills. Kids also get to build confidence through having positive social interactions.
Getting older children into music
As kids get a bit older, learning can become more formal. It’s vital to keep it fun, though – check in with your child regularly to make sure they’re still enjoying themselves. Some ideas to spark your older child’s interest in music include:
- Keep listening to music together: A musical home is a happy home. Listen to a wide range of music with your child, and ask them questions about it. What does the music make them feel, think about, or imagine? How would they illustrate it? Does it make them want to dance? Keep it light, no interrogations! Let them listen and enjoy.
- Show an interest in their preferences: Listen to the music that your child likes, and ask them questions about it. Encourage them to express themselves through music, and be open to their point of view. If you disagree, that’s OK – but remember that they are entitled to their preferences and avoid ‘music shaming.’
- Provide ‘no pressure’ opportunities to experiment: Too much pressure can put kids off. Allowing them to explore music with no expectations is a better approach. Make musical instruments accessible, let them browse your music collection, and let them get on with it. Let them know you’ll support them whether they’re ‘musical’ or not.
- Enroll them in music lessons: Children’s music lessons are a great way for kids to learn music – as long as the child wants to be there. Before starting lessons, meet different teachers and choose one who suits your child. Allow your child plenty of input into the type of lesson and instrument, and let them know it’s about fun – no pressure! Checkout our step by step guide on How to find the best music teacher for your child.
When should I start getting my child involved in music?
If you’re wondering at what age is appropriate to start music lessons, there is no right or wrong answer. Every child is different – the important thing is that they’re ready developmentally and emotionally. As a parent or caregiver, you’re in the best position to judge whether your child is ready to begin music lessons.
Getting young children into music through fun, informal activities is a great way to get them involved – without piling on too much pressure. If you keep it light, your child is likely to develop a love of music and reap all the benefits that go hand in hand with that.
How can I help my child as they get involved with music?
The best thing you can do as a parent or caregiver to help your child get involved in music is set a good example, be supportive, and relax! Enjoyment is key for a child to develop a life-long love of music, so keep it fun. Here are a few tips on specific things you can do as your child begins their musical journey:
- Learn a new instrument: Learning together is fun, and seeing you practicing will show them that it’s a worthwhile pursuit. If you already play an instrument, play it when they’re around and answer any questions they ask you about it.
- Listen to them play: Build your child’s confidence by taking the time to listen. If you can join in and play along, even better!
- Offer praise for hard work: To encourage your child to practice and instill a good work ethic, praise their hard work rather than their ability.
- Go to music events together: Concerts, festivals, and other music events are lots of fun and great for creating memories. What’s more, they’ll help to develop your child’s skills, preferences, and confidence.
What won’t help?
- Criticism and judgment: Even ‘constructive’ criticism can damage a child’s confidence. So, resist the urge to tell your child exactly what you think of their efforts. And never, ever shame your child for not being ‘good enough’ – you’ll risk putting them off for life!
- Forcing your child to play: If you were ever forced to learn an instrument as a child, chances are you hated it. Remember that feeling! If your child isn’t enjoying themselves, lay off and give them the time and space to move in a new direction.
- Starting formal learning too young: Music lessons for kids are a valuable place to learn and develop. But starting before your child is ready can be counter-productive. Stick to informal learning until your child is ready to take it further.
- Worrying too much about the details: If your child is playing music, they’re benefiting. If their technique isn’t perfect, it doesn’t matter. Think long-term and focus on making music a ‘safe space’ for your child to learn and grow.
Getting your child involved in music is a valuable gift that will help them at all stages of their life. For young children, an informal approach with plenty of exposure to music of all kinds is the best way to go. For older kids, experimentation, encouragement, and support are the order of the day.
Sparking a love of music in your child doesn’t have to be complicated, or hard work. By taking a relaxed approach, setting a good example, and listening to your child, you can get them involved in music so they reap the benefits for life.
Written by: Liz Sullivan