Making Music Together

Ways parents can help children learn about music

Today’s parents understand the value of music for the development of young children.  It’s not only fun for their youngsters to listen, sing and dance along to, it also helps children develop a host of important skills, such as language, concentration, social skills, confidence, and self-esteem.  Equally as important, all children are naturally musical—just as they are born with the potential to learn to speak and understand language, they have the ability from birth to learn music. And nurturing this innate talent early provides the foundation for later success with traditional music or dance lessons.

Early childhood is a period of rapid change and development; it is also the most critical time in a child’s musical growth Early childhood music classes, such as those at Music Together, are also filled with special moments when parents can spend valuable time with their little ones while youngsters learn about music and movement.

Unfortunately, many adults feel inadequate as music-makers themselves and, as a result, fail to make music with their children in everyday life–a true loss for both generations.  Parents and caregivers can contribute enormously to the enrichment of their child’s music development— regardless of parents’ own music abilities. It isn’t important that you sing or move well; it is important that you model singing and moving for your child. Here are some tips to help you begin your child’s musical journey:

  1. It’s simple: sing and dance with your child! The best thing you can do to help set your child on the road to a lifelong love of music is to participate enthusiastically in music activities yourself. Have you ever noticed how instinctively children try to imitate older siblings and grownups? Imitation is an important part of how they learn. Children learn to talk this way, as well as to walk. If you read books, they’ll want to read. If you sing and dance, they will, too. And don’t just put on a CD: Sing, bang a drum, get up and dance! It doesn’t matter if your notes aren’t perfect or if you miss a few steps; just show your child that you enjoy making music.
  2. Sing a lullaby to your child before bed. Young children love to hear their grownups sing to them. The sound of your voice, even if it is not pitch-perfect, is precious to your child. A lullaby provides a time to be close to your child physically, emotionally, and musically. The lullaby can transform the bedtime hour into an oasis of loving calm. For babies and toddlers, it provides a comforting bedtime ritual. For older children, who are increasingly verbal, it is often the time they spontaneously confide their hopes and fears.
  3. Take cues from your child and respond musically. If your baby or toddler “coos” on a pitch, return the sound. If your child sings on the way to the grocery store, sing with her. If your child brings an instrument to you, try to stop what you are doing and play!
  4.  Make it a family affair. Make music as a family. Have a dance party or a sing-along. Get out the pots and pans and form a kitchen band. Gather around the piano at holiday celebrations. One of the goals of Music Together is to bring music back to family life. Can you imagine sitting around as a family and singing instead of watching TV or playing computer games? As technology increases, the importance of non-technical group interaction also increases, especially at home. We think that family music-making can be a wonderful activity shared by brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents, and other members of the extended family, including nannies and babysitters.
  5. Bring your child to an early childhood music program like Music Together. Young children learn best in a non-formal environment free from performance pressure and undue interference with their natural sense of fun. Music Together provides children with all the ingredients for music learning. It offers them a rich musical repertoire to actively explore, along with the pleasure and support of being with loved ones in a music-making community. Music Together activities are designed to be accessible and interesting for all styles of learning. Best of all, it’s a fun activity that the whole family can participate in together. And, attending class might just bring out your inner musician as well as your child’s!

At Music Together, we believe all children can achieve basic music competence (which we define as the ability to sing in tune and move with accurate rhythm) provided their early environment supports such learning. And, it starts with you, the parents and caregivers. Your active and joyful participation is essential to your child's musical growth. So the next time your child is humming the theme to her favorite cartoon and rocking to the beat, make sure you join in and make some “music together.”

Kenneth K. Guilmartin conceived and led the development of the innovative Music Together program for the Center for Music and Young Children, which he founded in 1985. He has composed numerous scores for off-Broadway and regional theatre productions and is a popular presenter of early childhood and music education conferences. He has created music programs and conducted teacher training for numerous early childhood centers nationwide. A graduate of Swarthmore College, he studied composition and pedagogy at Manhattan School of Music and is certified in Dalcroze Eurhythmics by the Manhattan Dalcroze Institute.

Music Together is an internationally recognized early childhood music program for children from birth through age 7 and the adults who love them. First offered to the public in 1987, it pioneered the concept of a research-based, developmentally appropriate early childhood music curriculum that strongly emphasizes and facilitates adult involvement.

Now taught in over 2000 communities around the world, Music Together is committed to helping families, caregivers, and early childhood professionals rediscover the pleasure and educational value of informal music experiences. Rather than emphasizing traditional music performances, the Music Together program encourages family participation in spontaneous musical activity occurring within the context of daily life. Music Together recognizes that all children are musical and that every child needs a stimulating, supportive music environment to achieve basic competence in the wonderful human capacity for music-making.

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