Your Musical Self

Using music to learn, heal, and live

43 Easy Ways to Engage Young Kids in Music

We know music training enhances development. Here's how you can nurture that.

Evidence is mounting that encouraging your child's involvement in music is good for his or her development. Research indicates that music training helps make children better at language, math, and science. And as any parent will tell you, children are naturally musical. They create sounds out of found objects (e.g. pots and pans), sing themselves to sleep, start dancing when the radio plays, and learn their alphabet through song.

It's not so much exposure to music that influences development, but formal music training. In the US, it's fairly common for children to have some sort of formal music training in the public school setting. However, prior to age six, options are a little more limited. Children as young as 3 or 4 can start taking music lessons, generally on piano or violin. Plus there are a host of mommy-and-me and early childhood music education classes, such as Kindermusik, Music Together, and Musikgarten.

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But there are also ways you can encourage musical engagement as a parent, caregiver, or professional. It's the home and daily life environment that provides the most nurture and support for the developing child.

With this in mind, here are 43 easy ways to get your young kid exposed to and involved in music. This is not an inclusive list and it even includes some of the ideas mentioned above. But as you'll see, engaging your child with music can be as easy as allowing them be the musical beings they naturally are.

  1. Let them bang on the pots and pans . . . and maybe buy some headphones?
  2. Listen to the radio in the car..
  3. Have a spontaneous dance party in your living room.
  4. Sing your pre-meal blessing.
  5. Swap a bedtime story with a bedtime song.
  6. Invest in piano lessons.
  7. Encourage your child's spontaneous singing.
  8. Find and register for a local early childhood music education class like Kindermusik or Music Together.
  9. Encourage your child's spontaneous dancing.
  10. Invest in early childhood violin lessons.
  11. Buy a kid-friendly drum, like a small djembe.
  12. Enroll your child in a religious education program (they commonly include music).
  13. Sing with your child during bathtime.
  14. Watch Disney musicals.
  15. Go to a local college music performance.
  16. Enroll your child in a local community music program.
  17. Learn a new child-friendly holiday song, like "Here Comes Peter Cottontail."
  18. Teach your child the theme song to a TV show.
  19. Buy a kid-friendly xylophone.
  20. Attend an outdoor summer music festival.
  21. Have a family sing-a-long around the fire during a camping trip.
  22. Ask grandparents to pay for music lessons as a birthday or holiday present.
  23. Challenge your child to match body movements to the music that's playing.
  24. Play a child-friendly version of "name that tune."
  25. Dance together during an outdoor summer music concert.
  26. Talk about the latest Superbowl halftime show. Ask your child what his or her favorite part was.
  27. When your child starts to sing in the car, turn the radio off and start listening.
  28. Explore body percussion, such as snaps, claps, taps, and stomps.
  29. Spend time in nature and attend to nature's musical sounds.
  30. Buy a children's music book.
  31. Let your child plan and perform a musical "concert" in the living room.
  32. Go to a music performance at church.
  33. Buy a ukelele.
  34. Turn on music you don't generally listen to, like from a jazz, classical, or drumming CD.
  35. Have a family sing-a-long during the family road trip.
  36. Play music while you make dinner.
  37. Search for "child singers" on YouTube and watch the videos together.
  38. Pay attention to the music around you and start labeling what you hear ("Does that sound loud or soft? Harsh or sweet?")
  39. Explore the sounds different objects make, like trash cans and table tops.
  40. Have a box of kid-friendly instruments available for play.
  41. Purchase a piano during your local college's piano sale.
  42. Ask your child what he or she liked about a particular piece of music or what he or she didn't like.
  43. Sing silly songs in the car.

Follow me on Twitter @KimberlySMoore for daily updates on the latest research and articles related to music, music therapy, and music and the brain. I invite you also to check out my website, www.MusicTherapyMaven.com, for additional information, resources, and strategies.

Resources

Don't know where to start? These resources and links might help.

Early Childhood Music Education: Kindermusik, Music Together, Musikgarten

Music supplies: West Music, Music is Elementary

Information: National Association for Music Education

Kimberly Sena Moore is a board certified music therapist, blogger, and professor at the University of Miami.

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