How to make music part of your child's life
You don't need to be a musical expert or a teacher to start teaching your children about music at home. You don't even need to spend a fortune. You can easily use some of these ideas, and make your own instruments, or buy inexpensive toy instruments. With Soundbops, you get a complete series of lessons and songs that will take your children from the basics of music to being able to read and play music, and ready for a grown-up instrument.
1. Sing! (and whistle)
You don't need to be the best singer in the world to sing to your children. When tiny, it's a fantastic way of bonding and singing them to sleep, and even introducing rhythm as you rock them.
2. Be colourful!
Using colours is a great way of teaching children to read music, and a fantastic building block for learning to read and interpret music. Think how hard it is to look at a black and white piano keyboard, and a black and white page of music and try to see the connection between them.
Soundbops, for example, uses coloured bops that children can place on the Soundbops board. And each bop is a different note, and each note in our simple notation is the same colour. So the note C is red, and the bop is red. It's so much easier to grasp the meaning.
Using a system of colours for each note and the same on a printed sheet gives children their first introduction to reading and playing music. Try putting coloured stickers on a keyboard, and using the same colours to write out the tune.
3. Make instruments
Making your own instruments is great creative fun, and lets you and your children explore different aspects of music.
Try creating shakers with rice or pasta in empty jars, or crisp canisters. Fill glasses or bottles with varying volumes of water for a make-shift xylophone.
Best of all, use a shoe or tissue box and varying sizes of elastic bands to make a guitar. Cut a hole in the box and stretch the bands across it. Here's one we made earlier.
4. Listen to the world
Encourage your children to listen to sounds on trips to school, or shopping, or visiting family. What does a trip to the park or playground sound like? How many noises can be made into music?
Tooting horns, the rhythm of traffic, or the noise of a train crossing a junction - everything is an inspiration, on foot, in a car or on a bus.
Listen and explore how you can make those sounds at home. You can compose a journey symphony, using beats, voice and whatever you can find around the house - use saucepans as a drum set or use your shakers.
5. Colour and draw
Listen to a piece of music. Draw what you hear, or what the music makes you think and feel. Or talk about the music. It's a great way of exploring vocabulary and emotions.
Build a gallery of musical paintings - listen to different types of music and use paints, crayons, felt tips or pencils to allow your children to follow their imagination.
You can explore what types of music to which your child really responds, and discover what instruments appeal to them. You can produce prints or outlines of instruments and musical scenes and colour them in, so your child gets to know what different instruments look like, and what sounds they produce.
6. Play music and play games
Play music to your children in the background of daily activities and let them associate being happy with music. Play while you cook, or on a road trip. You'll be creating memories that will be recalled in the future, reinforcing their love of music.
Play musical games at parties or with friends or just with you and them. Try clapping games like B-I-N-G-O, or musical chairs. Play 'what comes next' games to learn songs and lyrics.
And, best of all, let them play music with the instruments you have. It may be a Soundbops, a tambourine, a recorder or a shoe-box guitar, but letting children experiment with music is unbeatable.
7. Go on a journey together
Go on that musical journey together. Teachers use modelling activities to teach children by example, and it's a brilliant way to teach. Discovering music together means your child has an example and will associate those positive learning experiences with you.
You could learn an instrument alongside them, or sing with them. Colour musical pictures with them. Play musical games. Teach them to whistle or learn the building blocks of music with the Soundbops system. Learning lyrics together will help them extend their vocabulary and understanding of words.
8. Let's talk about pitch
We teach children about colours, and numbers and letters - all the fundaments of reading and counting, and music, too. What we don't teach them about is pitch - how the letters represent different sounds.
Perfect pitch turns out to be a bit of a myth. It's just memory. One in 10,000 people have this skill innately, but like any skill, it can be taught. And, like language, which it is closely related to, it has a critical period - it needs to be learnt before the age of 5 or 6.
The Soundbops system and instrument teaches the connection between notation, keys and do-re-mi, giving children the skills to identify pitch.
Interestingly, Professor Diana Deutsch has shown that children learning languages based on tone and pitch (like Mandarin) are 6 or 7 times more likely to have perfect pitch than English speakers. That's why we need to coach English speakers more.
You can read more about perfect pitch here.
Sources: Burke, Nicola (2018) Musical Development Matters in the Early Years, Early Education, The British Association for Early Childhood Education.
Hallam, Susan (2010). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. International Journal of Music Education.
Deutsch, Diana (2006). The Enigma of Absolute Pitch. Acoustics Today.
Deutsch, Diana, Ed. (2013). The Psychology of Music, 3rd Edition. San Diego, Elsevier.
BBC Bring the Noise (2019) 5 Musical Ideas to try with children at home. BBC Teach.
Ellul, Matthew (2017). How to Teach Music in Homeschool - A Useful Guide for Parents. School of Composition.
Images: Andre Guerra, Will Francis, Jason Rosewell, Cursetheseeyes, Alireza Attari, Aaron Burden, Johnny McLung, Bermix Studio, Will Myers, Felix Koutchinski, Unsplash