Music Literacy in the Home – Part 1, Early Childhood

Me, I’m just an average home educator, but even I’ve had moms come to me for advice and suggestions. One of the questions that surprised me, since it had come so naturally in our family was, “How do you teach kids to like music?” I gave an answer suitable for the situation in which it was asked, but have since developed my ideas more fully. This post represents my humble efforts to inspire other moms to engender the love of music within their children. Not only will they love music, experiencing music helps develop their own musical talent.

My suggestions/experiences can be lumped into 4 age-appropriate sections.

Birth to age 6

  •  Sing lullabies every night. If you don’t know any, get a CD to sing along with – after a short time, since the songs are so simple, you will have learned them and won’t need the CD. As a late-blooming mother in my mid-thirties, I found myself rocking my first-born son remembering Brahm’s Lullaby which my father had sung to me. I would sing and sing, and since I didn’t know very many children’s songs at that point, I would then resort to singing the National Anthem, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic.
  • Get Wee Sing CDs. We received one as a baby gift with our first child, and I can honestly say that as I look back, it was the most meaningful gift we got. Better than the silver-plated baby rattle and the savings bonds. Charming and so well-produced, these sing-along CDs each come with books with all the lyrics. They are a perfect alternative to TV and our favorites were Wee Sing Fun n Folk, Wee Sing Bible Songs, and Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Fingerplay. I now know enough childrens’ songs to provide for 100 grandchildren! (When they come along.) I still remember our toddler son’s first spontaneous singing – it was “Peter and John went to pray, they met a lame man on the way,” from the Bible Songs collection. A sweet memory.
  • Make up songs as you go through the day with your children. Make up new lyrics using the tunes you know – not necessarily whole songs, but snippets. Your children will think you clever and amusing. Example: to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”, you could invent such lyrics as “Here we go ’round the table now, etc.”

These simple activities will provide the base of enjoying music, to which more sophisticated music learning can be added. Please watch for my next post on music for 7-12 year-olds. I will share my experiences and knowledge.

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6 thoughts on “Music Literacy in the Home – Part 1, Early Childhood

  1. Music is a “rockin” subject. Ever get the “blues?” Or are you in the “swing” of things?

    The beat goes on,
    Johnny the music man

  2. I always had music playing in the house — either the radio or on recordings (LPs when my first baby was born, cassettes by the time baby #3 came along, CDs by the time #4 arrived). Since I had always done this before they were born, it came naturally. Children’s music is fine — I especially recommend the recordings for children by Larry Groce, Priscilla Herdman, and Riders in the Sky, which were my kids’ favorites, and had the added advantage of not being irritating to adults (unlike many recordings aimed at children) — but children, even babies, are capable of enjoying other music too. I’m partial to baroque, classical, and romantic instrumental and choral music, so that’s what my kids heard most of the time when they were little, and they loved it. I still remember my eldest daughter (now 34) dancing joyfully around the living room to Brahms’ violin concerto when she was 2 – 3 years old, and my middle daughter (now 24) going to the piano keyboard when she still had to stand on tiptoe to reach it, and picking out by ear the melodies to music she’d heard on the radio or on recordings.

    • Yes, of course, classical music on in car and in background, foreground, wherever! I was just ploping out some other ideas, but I shouldn’t have neglected this standby, awesome idea! Thanks for chiming in, dear! Do you know about the “Children’s” artist Jamie Soles? Excellent, intelligent, humorous, and non-annoying.

      • I threw my comment in because it frustrates me how many parents think kids will listen only to music that’s composed and performed specifically for children… although if you look at a lot of the songs on so-called children’s music recordings, it’s interesting to note how few of the songs that we think of as being for children were originally composed with children in mind. The Larry Groce “Children’s Favorites” albums that my kids all grew up on contain songs like “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Red River Valley,” “Clementine,” “In the Good Old Summertime,” “Loch Lomond,” “Down in the Valley,” “When the Saints Go Marching In,” “The Wabash Cannonball,” “Sweet Betsy from Pike,” “Old Folks at Home,” etc. — none of which was written for children, although kids love them.

        When my kids were growing up, I went through a substantial number of recordings aimed at children — some of which I bought on recommendation from other parents, some of which I received as gifts from well-meaning friends — that were so annoying that I had to get rid of them. I don’t know why so many people think kids will only like songs that are obnoxious to adults. I think it’s vitally important to surround children with beautiful music, beautiful books, beautiful stories — it will sink into their little psyches and inspire and improve them, rather than catering to their childishness and immaturity the way most stuff geared toward children is prone to do.

        By the way, you already know this, but some of your readers might not: You should begin exposing babies to great music while they are still in the womb. If they hear it before birth, it will be familiar to them when they are out of the womb, and can be used to calm them down when they’re restless and/or cheer them up when they’re fussy.

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