Frequently Asked Questions About Music For Young Children
What is the best age to begin music lessons for my child?
Most people who want their children to learn music think of providing them with piano lessons. Because of the physical requirements for manipulating the keys and the size of the instrument, age six has become a typical age for beginners. However, parents should engage their children in music learning experiences during the child’s early years prior to learning to play an instrument. Researchers have shown children who have significant musical learning before age five sing better in tune, perform rhythms more accurately, and learn to play an instrument more quickly than those without it.
Significant musical learning occurs when young children engage in activities that encourage accurate rhythmic movement, singing in tune with good vocal models, focused listening to significant musical compositions, and conceptual understanding of the basic elements of rhythm and melody. These experiences provide the basic readiness for the serious study of an instrument. It is similar to a child’s learning to speak in one’s own language before going to Kindergarten.
How can I know whether my child has musical ability?
One can approach this question also by asking, “How can I know whether my child is verbal?” A child’s verbal ability is developed when they are spoken to and encouraged to respond. They learn the language of their home by hearing and speaking it all the time. Likewise, a child’s musical abilities are developed by listening to music and performing it. A child’s musical abilities can be further enhanced when they are engaged in a carefully sequenced program of instruction that develops age-appropriate performance and listening skills and basic concepts of music.
Fortunately, musical experiences are easily presented because young children seem to spontaneously respond to music when they hear it – especially rhythms. One cannot predict with any certainty that one’s child is a budding Mozart or Bernstein, but being musical to the extent that one can participate and enjoy music is worthwhile for anyone.
What can I do to help my child learn music?
Children learn music best when the child’s learning environment is filled with music and parents are an important part of this environment. Parents can do this in a number of ways, but here are five very useful approaches.
1. Select high quality recorded classical music to play frequently throughout the day. Music by Mozart and Haydn, for example, is appropriate.
2. Sing songs with your child. If you cannot sing in tune, recorded songs sung in the child’s vocal range are beneficial.
3. Engage your child in rhythmic games and activities where the child can focus on keeping an accurate and steady beat.
4. Take your child to children’s musical programs.
5. Engage your child in musical games with other children.
What if my child doesn’t want to participate in musical activities?
This is not uncommon. Many children are shy about performing, especially when they are very young and when the performance involves singing. Yet, musical experiences can be useful in overcoming shyness. Often, shy children will more readily participate with movement activities or by playing simple instruments, such as drums or bells.
Don’t interpret a lack of participation as a problem of interest or ability. Such children often “absorb” a great deal and learn by merely being in the presence of others who can demonstrate and perform music, especially other children. Certainly, the goal is to help the child develop performance skills and experience successful participation in music, and this will be realized given sufficient time and extended exposure to music.
What is the best age for my child to begin learning music?
Informal music learning experiences begin at birth. Some would even say in the womb. Learning involves forming neural pathways in the brain. These pathways form as a result of sensory input and are strengthened over time with repeated experiences. Early experiences are critical, because these structures are not as quickly formed after age five.
For the infant, such experiences involve a rich environment of sound that includes songs and other music in the background, especially classical music. Between ages two and three is a good time to engage children in more structured music learning, although this depends on the development of the individual child. Some parents may encourage such musical responses as singing and rhythmic movement throughout the day at home. Others may find appropriate audio and video materials useful. Still others may enroll their children in music classes. For the three-to five-year-old, these informal music experiences should be followed by a carefully sequenced curriculum of music instruction, such as that developed by the Music Intelligence Project.