4 Tips for Raising Little Musicians
While you can’t force musical abilities onto anyone, there are plenty of steps you can take to help push your child along a musical path from an early age. The more intentional you are, the better their chances for success.
Simple Ways to “Start ‘em Young”
Researchers have spent years studying the relationship between music and human development. And according to one study, musical training during infancy can enhance an individual’s ability to learn and appreciate music later in life.
“On hearing both music and speech sounds, [study participants] who had received music training displayed greater neural activity in auditory and prefrontal cortical regions, which have been associated with pattern processing and the predictive coding of auditory stimuli,” MedicalNewsToday explains.
Other studies show that, in addition to having more musical skills later in life, children who are exposed to music from a young age are more likely to become doctors, engineers, and computer professionals.
Here are several tips to start children off on the right path:
Listen to Lots of Music
Natural environmental immersion is the best method of training a child to love and appreciate music. In other words, make sure you’re playing music all the time. Whether you’re in the car, cooking dinner, or playing in the backyard, have music on in the background. And don’t just listen to the music – feel it! Dancing, humming, and singing along are highly encouraged. This teaches your child that music is a normal rhythm of life. As a result, they’ll cling to it like they do food, water, love, and affection.
Help Them Find the Right Instrument
Don’t force your child into playing a certain instrument. Instead, we recommend letting your child choose the instruments they’re most interested in.
Because children can be curious and fickle things, we don’t suggest going out and buying a new instrument every time your child expresses interest.
Try renting musical instruments until you know that your child is committed to pursuing that instrument with a passion. Otherwise, you end up buying expensive instruments that don’t get used. Not only is this financially costly, but you – as the parent – are more likely to put pressure on the child to play the instrument simply because you’ve made an investment in it.
Make Lessons Fun
Music lessons should be fun and immersive. The goal is to make your child fall in love with music, not fill them with “flash-card” knowledge of famous composers and textbook definitions of various musical styles. Avoid one-on-one lessons for the first few years and focus on group lessons instead. This incorporates a social component that makes learning more fun for your child.
Encourage Creativity and Freedom
If you were taught to play music from a young age, chances are you started with learning to read music. You probably had a formal music teacher who taught you notes, sheet music, and all of the intricacies of playing technically sound music. But this is no longer the recommended path.
“For the first four or five years of your child’s life, I don’t recommend focusing at all on formal music instruction,” artist Neil Moore writes for RollingStone. “It’s becoming more and more clear that, for many children, teens and adults, our traditional ‘reading-based’ approach can often stifle natural music abilities rather than foster them. After decades in the music education field, I can safely say that requiring children to read music before they know how to play an instrument can be counterproductive — it’d be like expecting children to spell before they can talk.”
While there eventually comes a time when learning to read music is important for most musicians, it’s not crucial that your child develops this knowledge until they’re old enough to go to school. Even then, you can wait a few years. Playing-based music methods are often more effective than formal music instruction for certain kids.
Set Your Children Up for Musical Success
As mentioned earlier, it’s impossible (and unhealthy) to try and force music on someone. Just as it’s cruel to make a child play sports, it’s equally insensitive to make a child be a musician. In doing so, you’ll actually make them resent music and push them in the opposite direction. Having said that, if you’re willing to implement the tips mentioned above, you can gently set them on a trajectory that’s musically inclined. Good luck!