March—National Music in our Schools Month—is a great time to introduce your children to music. To help them develop a love of music, you don't have to wait until they're old enough for lessons.
Here's some advice from music professionals about ways to help foster a lifelong interest in music—and have a lot of fun with your kids at the same time:
- Start them early, even in the womb. Elizabeth Monacelli, a professional violinist in San Diego, Calif., stresses the importance of exposing children to music early in their lives. She notes that in the Japanese Suzuki method, "mothers are instructed to play recordings to their children in the womb. The children are then introduced to their instruments as early as one year of age."
- Shake it, baby. "Babies experience music with their whole bodies," explains Mike Soloway, an early childhood music teacher, performer and songwriter from Huntington, N.Y. He recommends rocking or swaying while holding your baby and listening to music, gently tapping or bouncing your baby's body to the beat of a song. Music and movement, he notes, are intimately connected during early childhood years. Soloway has just released a 2-volume CD, "Moving With Mike: Fun Songs for Creative Movement, Dance & Fitness," for children age 3-7.
- Stay tuned to daily activities. Susie Tallman of Rock Me Baby Records, a creator of music that enriches children at each stage of their development, encourages integrating music into children's daily lives. "Listen to music in the car. Brush teeth or take a bath while listening to music. And use clean-up songs to make chores more fun," Tallman says.
- Let 'em play. Alicia McMillan, a San Diego-based music educator who teaches children aged four through 14, suggests letting kids play their instruments while accompanying a recording, to help them learn to play with the beat. This can be done with children as young as four, she says.
- Invite questions. McMillan also recommends listening to music with your children and then asking them questions, such as: Is the music fast or slow? Loud or soft? Is the singer a man, woman or child? What instruments do you hear? How does the music make you feel—sad or excited? She adds that you can ask your children to draw a picture of how the music made them feel.