How to Introduce Music to a Child, From a Former Music Teacher

    We sat down with our very own School Support lead + music aficionado, Rachel Fish, to discuss how she introduced music to her child and her advice on this. Rachel has years of experience as a former middle school choral director, elementary school music teacher, and being a parent.

    What are those first signs should you look for that your child is interested in music?

    As humans, we are all hardwired to have interest in music as a form of self-expression. Some signs your very young child may enjoy a music class or lessons may be that they try to sing along with the radio or your voice (babbling counts as trying to sing along!), if they like to dance and move when they hear a song that appeals to them (even the opening theme from their favorite TV show or movie), or if they like to experiment with sounds (banging things together, shaking toys, drumming on boxes).

    Is there a right age to introduce music to your child? What age would you suggest introducing music to your children?

    I recommend introducing music to your children as soon as possible! When I was pregnant with my own child, I played music for him to listen to all the time. There are so many benefits to making and listening to music including improved memory and speech development, increased emotional regulation and stress reduction capabilities through the production of oxytocin, and creating music with loved ones has been proven to release endorphins and create or strengthen emotional connection.

    Music is a natural skill that can only be grown and nurtured through practice. The earlier a child is engaged with music, the more likely they are to be confident in their musical skills, and develop musical preferences and attachment.

    And what exactly should that introduction look like?

    Introduction to music can happen in an incredible variety of ways, all of which are beneficial to the child. Parents or caregivers can begin by sharing music that they enjoy with their child and encourage dancing and movement to that music. Singing with your child is another wonderful way to encourage them to listen for patterns, engage with increased vocabulary, and strengthen the emotional bond between the child and their caregiver. Other easy ways to introduce music can be to have discussions with your child about music that they hear, and asking them questions. Asking your child things like “Do you hear those birds singing? Do you think birds singing counts as music?” or “How does that song make you feel?” are great ways of encouraging children to engage with critical thinking in relation to music and increase awareness of their emotions and their surroundings.

    Are there any resources that you find helpful for older children?

    Music is also such a great outlet for expressing emotions such as anxiety or depression for kids. If your child can’t find the words to describe how they feel, have them play a song that equates to what is going on inside their head, and validate these emotions. The Sound It Out Campaign is a great example of how we as caregivers can use music to support children’s emotional needs. The campaign uses exclusive music and interviews with artists to help middle schoolers open up about their emotions through music.

    Do you have any resources that you turn to or find helpful for introducing music to children?

    My child loves Raffi, specifically Baby Beluga! Little kids love to hear patterns in music so exposing them to the same song over and over can be beneficial to helping them sound out words and noises. Some other formal exposure to music can begin early with “Mommy and Me” music classes, which allow for exposure to more formal instruments at an early age, are more “play-based” than traditional music lessons, and will give parents more ideas for how to engage in musical experimentation and conversations with your child. In terms of traditional, 30-minute private lessons centered on one instrument, I recommend waiting until age 4–5, when sitting to focus on one task for a longer period of time is more developmentally appropriate.

    How does music affect children differently as they mature? What should parents be doing as their children age to continue to encourage music?

    As kids get older, they start to develop their own opinions. The older they get the more they start to understand their own taste in music. Engaging and validating what they like is super important to keeping a healthy relationship with music. Let them “DJ” in the car on the way to school or discuss what you like about the songs they listen to. The key is to show interest in your child’s music taste no matter what it is.