Guest post by Eva Krasova.
Kids are born musicians.
Research shows that even newborns respond positively to pleasing musical sounds and vocalizations, and as soon as they develop enough physical coordination, kids across all cultures engage in music-making with mom's kitchen pots, spoons, and rattles.
Many parents think that they need to wait until their kids are older to start musical training, but that's not the case. You can nurture this wonderful musical talent your child already possesses right in your home, even if you never had musical training yourself.
In this short article, I’ll share with you some fun ways you can make music at home with your kids even if you are not a musical parent.
1. Family Jam Time
Set up situations where kids can make music without fear of making mistakes.
In my house, we have a 32 quart plastic box filled with musical instruments that come out only for family jam time. It’s filled with maracas, bells, shakers, drums, rattles, a xylophone, tambourines, castanets, and triangles with strikers.
Most of the time, engaging my kids is as easy as putting the box in the middle of the floor and taking the lid off. Other days, I need to turn on a CD with everyone’s favorite songs, like Jingle Bells and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, and start shaking the maracas in tune to the beat.
If you're just starting out, invite your kids to sit on the floor next to you, pick an instrument, and start tapping, shaking, and singing with enthusiasm. Before you know it, your kids will join in.
2. Make Your Own Musical Instruments
You don’t have to spend a fortune buying your kids fancy musical instruments.
Making them at home is as easy as putting some rubber bands over a box of pasta and plucking "the strings." Or fill an empty container with dry beans to make a quick shaker.
Use items you already have in your recycling bin.
Some soup and coffee cans will make excellent drums. Do you have paper plates left from the last birthday party? Turn them into tambourines. Do you buy aluminum foil? When you run out, you can turn the cardboard tube into a rain stick.
We are in love with the art of making wind chimes. It's a musical craft project and a science experiment rolled in one. It’s so much fun trying to figure out what sounds we will get out of which ingredients.
3. Quiet Listening
Want to boost your child's listening skills? Help your kids calm their minds, soothe their emotions, grow their patience muscle, and learn to appreciate sound and melody.
Here's a quiet listening activity we use in our house. We lovingly call is "Bupkis." I once read that “bupkis” means “nothing at all,” and that’s what it looks like when we do it — as if we’re doing nothing.
In our busy lives, music is often an accompaniment to other activities. We listen to music while we do something else more important. However, in this activity, music is the main event. It's like this:
Find a cozy corner, kick off your shoes, hug your kids, and don't do anything but listen to some calming music. You can start with one minute and, over a year or so, try to increase the listening time to fifteen minutes.
Our favorite approach is to start by turning off the lights or closing curtains, lighting a candle, laying down on the floor (or sometimes snuggling together in a big comfy armchair), and turning on some soothing music. We love Bach, Beethoven, Mozart (the Moonlight Sonata was one of the first pieces my daughter learned to play on the piano before she even knew how to read notes. "This is what I want to play," she decided, and she did it just by copying me).
To find quiet listening music, you can start with going to YouTube and typing in “Air on a G string” by Bach, “Gymnopédie No. 1” by Erik Satie, “Clair de lune” by Claude Debussy, “Wiegenlied” by Johannes Brahms, or any cello music.
I'm a huge fan of cello and turn it on when I do yoga in my dining room. (Is it a coincidence that one of my sons decided to learn to play the cello the moment he saw a cello in real life and associated the sounds he learned to love with the actual instrument in front of him?)
4. Music Games
Oh, games! They make everything more fun, don’t they?
We have a couple of favorites that stimulate my kids’ musical talent without boring me to tears.
"Bah-bah-doo" game is fun to play anywhere. I made it up during one car trip when my kids were getting rowdy, and I had forgotten my phone at home, so we couldn't listen to an audiobook. You can also play it at home and add motions!
In this game, the first person, you can call him a 'Conductor,' comes up with the "piece," for example, "Bah-Bah-Doo Bah-Bah-Doo!" And the rest of the players have to repeat the rhyming phrase. Increase the length and complexity of the sequence to keep it challenging. Then, for the ultimate challenge, ask kids to reverse your sequence! So, when you say, "Bah-Bah-Doo Bah-Bah-Doo," they have to say, "Doo-Doo-Bah Doo-Doo-Bah." Fun, right? You can come up with your own silly rhymes, "Boo-Boo-Ram Ta-Del-Dum."
I hope you have a piece of paper and a pen handy to write down your best creations.
5. Music Books
Ten years ago, it wasn't easy to find a good picture book that celebrated music. Not so now.
There are so many great books about music and musical instruments, hard-working musicians, and inspiring musical lessons.
"The Cello of Mr. O" is probably our favorite.
Now what? How will you add more music to your child's life?
Parents can do a lot to foster their kids’ love of music. If you are not excited about adding one more thing to your to-do list, consider the multitude of benefits of making an effort.
Music experts have learned that music can enhance brain function, foster mental alertness, and make you and your kids calmer and happier.
Developing music appreciation and music skills doesn’t have to take all day.
Do short musical activities, 5-15 minutes long, and have fun doing it. You can listen to music, make musical instruments, play games, read books about music, and have impromptu singing parties in the kitchen using whisks as microphones.
Once your kids discover music, it will become a friend, a place they can go to when they’ve had a bad (or good) day, and a source of comfort.