Musical Help for Parents

  •     People often ask me how they can influence their child’s musical development. There has been much research published lately on the benefits of various musical experiences. But most of us know that children are naturally musical. They love to dance and sing. So here are some first steps you can take to nurture your child’s natural desire for music.

        Sing to your child and let your child sing to you. It would be great if every parent had a beautiful voice, but it really isn’t necessary. Allow yourself the freedom to sing, songs that are at your child’s level, the best you can. Short, simple, nursery songs and child’s game songs are a great starting place. Children love repetition, so be prepared to sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” 100 times. You will tire of it long before your child does.

        Teach your child song games that you played as a child. “Ring Around the Rosy”, “London Bridge”, even “The Wheels on the Bus”. Small children love these songs and games because they can remember all the words and they can do the game. As your children grow, add story songs, songs with two parts like “The Bear Song” and additive songs which get more complicated as you add words. Add longer songs and more complicated games to your repertoire such as rounds and songs with many layered parts. But, don’t tell them I told you, even big Fifth Graders will gladly sing “You Can’t Ride in My Little Red Wagon”.

        John Holt, author and educator, wrote a great book about learning called How Children Learn. In it he describes many ways in which adults affect the way children grow and learn. One of my favorite concepts from this book is that children learn to value what adults value. This applies directly to musical learning. If you value your child’s singing and musical exploration, they will value it too. If you value wholesome children’s games and songs, they will too. So, purchase a cd or cassette by Sharon, Lois and Bram or Raffi. Look through the children’s section at a record store for a variety of musical styles: try Yo-Yo Ma’s children’s recording, Bob Carlisle, The King’s Singers, For Our Children and Disney.

        There also are many songbook resources available from local stores and catalogs. It is important to find variety in the music your child experiences and sings. We know that music affects our attitudes. Help your child find music that will encourage a positive attitude. Most of all, allow your child to explore her musical world. Let him sing his day to you. Let her make up songs about what happened or where she’s going. Let him find music in daily activities such as the hum of the car or airplane, the songs of the birds, the rhythm of speech and words. Let her experience music in a variety of ways and that music will be returned to you ten fold.

        Music educators believe that all children are innately musical. All people are able to participate in, appreciate or listen to music. Adults merely need to allow children to be musical without judging the result. One doesn’t need to perform at Carnegie Hall to have a valuable musical life.

    Submitted by Sheila Sullivan Buck, Music Teacher and Orff Specialist.

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