It starts early, this invasion of peppy tunes, nonsensical lyrics, and repetitive choruses. Almost immediately after bringing your first child home from the hospital, your playlist includes more Baby Mozart than Coldplay. Before you know it, you can sing every verse of the latest Disney song but can’t remember the name of Maroon 5’s lead singer. In some regards, the transformation of your car’s radio into a children’s music factory is understandable—acceptable, even. As you begin the long road of being a parent, you change to meet the needs of your children. However, even the most complacent parent eventually wonders, “Is there a timeframe on child-proofed music?” When does the parent regain control over the radio dial? At what age is it ok to let your child rock out to some of your favorite tunes?
More Than Listening
Before you hit the Seek button on your radio controls, it is important to remember that music is more than a passive activity for your child. Particularly during their early childhood years, music is a whole-body experience that helps develop more than their musical taste. Children benefit from active listening: singing, dancing, and clapping are part of your child’s brain development. During the formative years, focus more on your child’s engagement with the music. If your child is still bouncing around to the tunes, leave the dial where it is.
Speaking the Language of Music
For a healthy diet, you should enjoy foods from a variety of food groups. The same principle applies to a musical diet as well. Instead of limiting your child to a menu of similar musical sounds, offer a buffet of musical styles. Select pieces from your own personal favorites, songs from around the world, and songs from different cultures. Allowing your child to hear music from different genres gives them perspective on different tones and musical sounds.
How can you introduce music to your child?
Start with what you know.
When selecting songs for your child, the best place to start is songs that you already know. The familiar songs of childhood are filled with rhythmic patterns, memorable tunes, and catchy lyrics. Start with the simple nursery rhymes you remember, slowly adding in folk songs and songs of cultural importance.
Add in the classics.
Begin adding classical music to your daily routine. By using classical music as the background to your life, you are teaching your child to appreciate the soothing sounds of classical tunes. Introduce additional musical themes with songs such as “Peter and the Wolf” or “Carnival of the Animals.” These songs allow children to learn about instrumentation and the various sounds of an orchestra in a fun, engaging manner. Choose short, varied pieces to keep your child’s attention. Pieces should include multiple instruments, for added interest, and should be filled with tonal qualities that capture your child’s imagination.
Skip inappropriate music.
As your child grows, it is important to help them develop their musical palate by offering music that is more advanced than “typical” children’s songs. Expand their selection of music by branching into child-friendly music with more developed musical compositions. Stay away from explicit or suggestive lyrics and songs that may be inappropriate for young children.
Monitor their music.
Today’s children are tech-savvy; they can find, download, and play songs on iPods, computers, and phones at a young age. Many parents begin to give their children free reign to select their own songs, never checking the content of the music. Avoid future problems by supervising your child’s musical selection until you are confident in their decision-making ability. As your child demonstrates their trustworthiness in the music they choose, you can give them more control and autonomy over their selection process.
Share your music.
No matter how much you love U2, your child may never develop a fondness for the band. Similarly, you may not enjoy hearing the latest punk-rock band, but your pre-teen may love them. Give your child the opportunity to hear musical styles from different genres. No matter what style of music you’re listening to, demonstrate an appreciation for the differences and enjoy the sounds. Allow your child to see music in action by taking them to an outdoor concert, a performance hall, or a musical.
Teaching your child to value and appreciate the influence of music will be a lesson they value for their entire life. Break out your air guitar, kick up your heels, and sing along to the music on the radio. Not only are you teaching your child that music can be fun, you’re creating a bond that will last a lifetime.