Numerous studies show a correlation between music education and brain development; math and spatial reasoning; reading and verbal skills; academic achievement; and even social and emotional development. For instance, a performance report from the 2012 SATs shows students who participated in music scored an average of 21 points above average in reading, 23 points above average in math and 21 points above average in writing.
Your child doesn’t need to be the next Beethoven to benefit from a music education. It’s possible to reap the benefits without chaining your child to the cello — and that’s probably music to your ears. Here are six suggestions for fostering a more musical household:
1. Enroll kids in formal lessons
The most obvious way to teach kids about music is to enroll them in music lessons. As young as age 2, children can start learning the basics of rhythm and beat and even start banging a few keys on the piano in a group setting. Many experts suggest waiting until a child can read to start formal lessons, but the timing is up to you. Be prepared to invest your own time practicing daily with a child.
2. Keep instruments out in the open
A 3 year old (or 13 year old) banging on the piano keys may not be music to your ears, but keeping instruments accessible is the best way to make sure they are used. Unless you’ve got a pricey instrument, keep your musical gear within arms reach. Let kiddos play the piano or pick at the guitar. If you’re worried about damage, invest in less-expensive music makers such as handbells, maracas, egg shakers, bongos, rainsticks and the like. (You may want to buy ear plugs while you’re at it).
3. Add classical music to carpool
Pick a time of the day, such as breakfast or driving home from school, or a day of the week (Sundays are good) to play classical music for your kids. You can literally play it yourself if you’re a musical genius or spend a few dollars downloading orchestral versions of classical songs from iTunes. Start with kid-favorites such as “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saëns, Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker.”
4. Practice ear training
The next time you listen to classical music with your kids, challenge them to identify the instruments in the song. This is a great activity to do right before bedtime — have them lay down and close their eyes while they listen — but it’s also fun in the car, too. If you need a primer before you listen, visit the SFS Kids website, where you can view an orchestra seating chart and listen to music samples from all of the families — strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.
5. Take them to the symphony
Most big-city symphonies have family-friendly events designed just for kids. For instance, the Utah Symphony has a family series and nearly everything the Utah Valley Symphony does is thumbs-up for families. At BYU, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Family Concert Series is a free way to introduce kids to music. These concerts are designed for children and last less than an hour. A heads up: a ticket is required and they do sell out.
6. Make music fun
Try to incorporate music into your everyday — turn on music while you clean up the kitchen (upbeat ethnic music works great), play a certain song every morning while your kids wake up or attend a regular music and movement class with younger kids at the public library. Classical Kids CDs are a great way to expose children to the history behind a famous composer and get them interested in classical music — oh, and to put them to sleep at night. We recommend starting with “Beethoven Lives Upstairs,” which is available on Amazon and for check out at larger public libraries, and branching out from there.