One of the highlights of my week is teaching my Preschool Music Class here at my studio each Wednesday morning. We have a great group of kids ages 0-4. Many of them have been coming to music class for most of their little lives.

It is so amazing to see firsthand how intuitive music is to young children. They are full of musical abilities and skills that just need to be nurtured and directed.

A lot of parents bring their kids to music class because they can tell their kids love music but don’t know enough themselves to teach them.

I would absolutely encourage parents to enroll in music class with their child. Nothing can replace the group experience and interactions, the weekly repetition and routine and the special bonding time that can take place in an actual class.

The funny thing is that many kids come to music class and act uninterested, don’t participate or don’t seem to understand what’s going on. Amazingly, when they return to their comfortable home environment, they explode with all of the new musical skills they have learned. It’s magical and so cool to watch!

I wanted to share my favorite tips that parents can do at home to help children learn to love music, nurture their blossoming musical abilities and prepare them to learn an instrument at a later stage.

Since this is one of my favorite topics and I have so much to share, I’ll start out with a couple of tips today, but be sure to check back for parts 2 and 3 of the series.

Actively Listen

Active listening is such an important skill for kids to learn. In their every day lives, they need to use it for things like following directions or listening to their parents or teachers. Imagine your child runs from you in a parking lot or a busy store. In situations like that, they must listen to you when you call for them, so the more they have practiced listening in different contexts, the better they will respond.

If they play an instrument down the road, they’ll need to listen to the quality of the sound they are producing, listen to fellow musicians so that they can play together and distinguish different things happening in the music.

Our lives our noisy, and as adults, we become accustomed to all of the sounds and noises that surround us. You can help your child learn to actively listen by simply observing all of the different sounds you hear throughout the day – the sound of a car door closing, the sound of the dryer running, the birds outside, a motorcycle speeding by, the microwave beeping, water running.

When you hear something around your house or while out and about, stop and really listen. Have your child touch his/her ears, be still (even if it’s just for a few seconds) and concentrate on the sound you hear.

Ask your child questions about the sounds they hear. Have them describe it and see if they can anticipate what will happen – will the sound change or stop? Have them imitate the sound.

Move To A Beat

Some kids naturally find the beat of music and start moving to it, but others may develop this skill over time. Scaffolding is the perfect way to teach your child how to stay on a beat. Scaffolding is a teaching technique where you demonstrate a skill to your child, then let them imitate you. Once they imitate you you can build on what their doing, then let them continue to imitate you.

An example of scaffolding would go like this:

  • You shake a shaker to the beat of music.
  • Your child starts shaking along with you.
  • If they’re not finding the beat, just repeat this activity consistently. It may take days, weeks or months, but eventually they will start to land on the beat.
  • If they can already keep a steady beat, change the way you shake your shaker. Tap it on your head.
  • Let you child imitate you tapping the shaker on your head. If your child decides to tap it on their leg, you can imitate your child and tap it on your leg.
  • Then, you change it up and tap it on the floor; let your child follow suit.
  • Continue this exchange for as long as your child stays in engaged.

Scaffolding may seem simple, but it’s a really powerful way for your child to learn. Your child will pick up new ways of using the instrument and this repetition will teach them to find a steady beat.

Turn on some music and experiment with this process! It won’t look the same every time and it’s much more engaging and exciting than just repetitively playing a rhythm instrument over and over!

Even in the youngest babies, bouncing, swaying or patting them to the beat of a song will benefit them.

With children who are mobile, you can just turn on music and let them dance. Encourage them to move any part of their body – clap or tap their hands, stomp, march, shuffle, tap their feet, nod their head, wave their arms. Just let them do what comes naturally, but if they seem to be stuck, practice the scaffolding technique mentioned above.

In kids who are nurtured and encouraged to feel music, learning an instrument will be a breeze!

Of course, you don’t need any special instruments or props to practice finding the beat, but it might be fun to have some instruments on hand. I’ve tried tons of different rhythmic instruments over the years and here are some of my favorites:

  • Fruit shakers and vegetable shakers – kids just love these! They are quite realistic looking and the variety of shapes make them all unique to play.
  • Animal shakers – these are perfect for little hands!
  • Sand blocks – these are fun because there are so many ways to play them, you can clap them, tap them on the floor, tap them on your legs, belly, or head, or rub them together.
  • Classic egg shakers – you can’t go wrong with a simple egg shaker!

Check back soon for parts 2 and 3 of this series!

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