Make way for music!

Make way for music!
Looking to bring out your child’s musical side? There’s nothing to it! Here are a few ideas for teaching kids about rhythm and sparking their love for music.

Looking to bring out your child’s musical side? There’s nothing to it! Here are a few ideas for teaching kids about rhythm and sparking their love for music.

You don’t have to be a musician to raise a musical child! “If you want to awaken your child’s appreciation for music, start by singing, dancing, and moving together,” says musician Monique Désy Proulx. If you can’t carry a tune or have two left feet, don’t worry: “All that matters to your child is having fun with his parents.”

Another fun activity is crafting homemade instruments for your little one to play. For example, tightly sealed plastic bottles filled with some dried rice, pebbles, or beads make for great DIY maracas, while a pair of wooden spoons is all you need to turn an empty ice cream container into a drum. You can also teach your child to drum a beat on pots and pans, tables, or the couch.

According to Jonathan Bolduc, a professor of musical education at Université Laval, nursery rhymes can also foster an interest in music. “They instil a sense of rhythm and are a big hit with kids,” Bolduc explains. He recommends putting your own spin on nursery rhymes, as you might with bedtime stories. Try making your child laugh by altering your voice—recite the rhyme in a whisper, in a steady crescendo, or with an accent, for example.

What’s the right age for a child to begin music lessons?

From the age of nine months, children can begin taking introductory music classes that explore song, movement, and percussion (i.e., instruments such as the maracas, tambourine, triangle, and xylophone). They will learn to recognize sounds, listen to different types of music, and move in time to a melody. As music therapist Guylaine Vaillancourt notes, “Developing these skills makes it easier to keep a beat, concentrate, follow instructions, and appreciate music.”

It’s best to spend no more than a few minutes at a time on an activity when introducing toddlers to music.

Xavier, 4, and Chloé, 2, take music classes at their childcare centre. “They have a great time doing activities like playing drums, dancing, and learning songs with actions,” says their mom, Fanny. “In some classes, the instructor will tell a story while the kids play different instruments in the background.”

As far as taking lessons for a specific instrument, toddlers don’t yet have the necessary motor skills or concentration, says Vaillancourt. It’s better to wait until they’re ready, at the age of five to seven. “Music lessons require practice and discipline,” Vaillancourt adds. “If children find them too hard, they can get discouraged, even to the point of not wanting to try again when they’re older. Learning to play an instrument should be fun!”

Musical activity ideas

Ages one and under

  • Sing to your baby as you take care of her, such as while changing her diaper, feeding her, or giving her a bath.
  • Roll a ball along to some music over your baby’s stomach, arms, and legs.
  • Pat your baby’s back in a gentle rhythm while you hold him.
  • Play make believe with stuffed animals by using a deep singing or speaking voice for bigger toys and a highpitched voice for smaller toys.

Ages one to three

  • Teach your child to play musical statues by encouraging her to dance along when you turn on the music and then freeze when you press pause.
  • Show your child how he can transform his voice by speaking into a cardboard tube or cupping his mouth with both hands. Encourage him to sing or make different sounds, such as drawnout vowels, while holding the tube to his mouth.
  • Play singing games such as “Ring Around the Rosie” while holding hands with your toddler and skipping in a circle.
  • Compare sounds. Tap your fingers on a pair of different objects, such as a tin can and a plastic container, and ask your child whether they sound the same or different. Repeat this exercise with various objects, and encourage your little one to try it for herself.

Ages three to five

  • Produce different rhythms by clapping your hands, slapping your thighs, or tapping on different surfaces. Begin by asking your child to follow along, and then have him make up his own patterns.
  • Ask your little one questions about a nursery rhyme she knows and see if she can tell you which of the words rhyme.
  • Have your toddler listen to music with his eyes closed and ask what it makes him think of.
  • Ask your child to make up a dance to a bit of music or to come up with actions for a song or nursery rhyme.


Naître et grandir

Source: Naître et grandir magazine, December 2017
Research and copywriting: Nathalie Vallerand
Scientific review: Nicole Malenfant, teacher in early childhood education techniques, CEGEP Édouard-Montpetit

Photos: GettyImages/Ryanjlane and Selectstock