Making beautiful music together with your children


Prior to motherhood my time was spent often frequenting a variety of choral endeavours – musical theater at school and home, choirs, singing in the shower, karaoke bars – I’ve sung in many many different places and at one point in my life considered it as a professional career. Sadly I did not choose a musical career, and my hobby traditions of music and membership in a choir are on hold for now – until my son gets a little bigger. Fortunately, music remains ever a part of my life.

Scientists, in infinite discovery mode, have also identified the long-term benefits of musical training. One recent study published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that adults exposed to musical training as children exhibited stronger brainstem auditory responses when compared to adults who had not received musical training.

As you may have also read, recent research supports infant “music classes” with active music learning, but what exactly does this entail?

With little L, who has fortunately taken on his mother’s penchant for song and dance, I sing a bundle. And I feel lucky that the little one is always clamoring for “Meh! Meh!” (More)

Getting your child a variety of musical experiences can be as easy as owning a shaker and your local computer or iPod. Pandora offers lovely – and free – music stations that cater to every age group, and toddlers are no exception. They have a “Toddler Tunes” radio station, though my personal favorite is to type in “Sesame Street” or “Disney” or “Dan Zanes” and see what comes up on the playlist.

Of course, the nostalgic person in me longs for the days of girl scouts and singing in school, where we created songbooks together and made up our own songs. So I sing to my little L – whatever comes into my head and whatever I remember. Frequently I have songs in my head as I am sitting with him, so I just put a voice to them. Note: a child will interpret and experience music completely differently when they hear it from your own voice – he or she won’t learn as much from the similar, unvarying drone of the listening to the same CD over and over again. So just try singing a little ditty and see how it goes. Nervous? Turn on the music and sing along, make your own hand gestures and dancing with your child. Encourage him or her to copy you.

There is nothing like seeing a child learn a song and experience its joy. My latest joy with my little one is singing “The Wheels on the Bus” with him. The minute I sing about the wipers swishing I see his arms swaying from side to side, then suddenly they are “moving on back” with the driver and next going “up and down” with the people on the bus. These songs teach children so many things – not just the melody, but the concepts of opposites (up and down), what it means to have directions, what the actions are from different objects.

If you are at a loss for words – i.e. if like me you frequently forget song lyrics – I strongly recommend this site from the NIH: This huge repository of children’s songs has reminded me of so many songs and introduced me to others. Fortunately it links not only to lyrics (advertisement free, thankfully – yay government) but it also has midi files if you have forgotten the tunes. It is a great resource to rekindle the folksy, girl /camping, Americana songs that you may remember from your childhood as I do.

And here are the lyrics a little song that little L loves to dance to (Thank you daycare for teaching this one to me!)

Hey jump up and down!
Turn all around! Jump up and down!
Hey, Jump up and down
Turn all around and sit back down!