Whether or not you perform music, whether you’re a virtuoso or a beginner, and even if you just enjoy listening to music, if you have children, chances are your relationship with music is going to have some effects on their early development of language and memory. Whether or not you are conscious of it, the way that you expose your children to music is going to be a decisive factor in whether or not they choose to pursue music extensively, or enjoy it passively. Don’t let this stress you out and don’t radically alter the course of your parenting methods based on the information contained in this article; just do your research and keep in mind that the way infants experience things for the first time influences the way they will relate to it for the rest of their lives.
Studies show that children will often speak some of their first words as part of lyrics to a song. The clear reason for this is that repetitive melodies and rhythms have a tendency to imprint in our minds; hence the familiar notion of a song getting stuck in our heads – whether it’s Bon Jovi or Beethoven, we don’t have much of a choice.
Similarly, if you play a certain from Sesame Street song or from the Super Simple Songs channel on YouTube over and over, the song will “stick” in a child’s head, and they will automatically feel compelled to sing along. This mimics the general way that children learn language: first by rote repetition, and eventually by making genuine conceptual connections.
If you want to go beyond kids’ music and get them interested in some of your music, it’s a good idea to pick something catchy, with repetitive choruses and clearly enunciated lyrics, so that they have a fighting chance of understanding the language. If you sing along with them and dance, they will eventually catch on and sing the words with you, even if they don’t necessarily understand what the words “do the twist” mean at first, they will put it together pretty quickly.
If you can personally play guitar or piano and sing, this is the best way to share your love of music with your kids and establish a positive association for them. They will be dancing and singing in no time, and they will be very happy that mom or dad are personally entertaining them. Furthermore, you can let them strum the guitar while you are playing, or set them in front of the piano to play around with the keys. Even is it doesn’t sound like much of anything, they will still enjoy it and understand that music is something you can produce in the room, not something that just comes out of computer speakers.
It’s also worthwhile to talk to the staff at your child’s school if you’re interested in encouraging them to play music. In many Canadian provinces, music is being cut from the curriculum due to lack of funding. This is a shame because music promotes flexible thinking and collaboration, which are going to be crucial for the minds of the next generation as the job market rapidly morphs and is influenced by technology. Furthermore, a drum circle or a sing along with dancing is a good way to reset children’ minds between lessons. A calm and focused classroom is a classroom that has had ample opportunity to stretch out, dance, laugh and sing.
As they get a little older, you can see if they have a propensity for music. Some parents want their kids to take formal lessons from a young age, study theory and take exams, but this is often a disastrous approach. If emphasize the fun side of music and let your kids find their own path, they will be more likely to maintain that positive association with music rather than seeing it as just another chore.
Learning theory and passing exams is essential at some point if your child decides to pursue a career in classical music, but if you emphasize the fun side of music, they will be more likely to pursue a side career in jazz, rock or bluegrass – a more casual, joyful kind of music that is more community based.