Friday, September 3, 2010 3:50:23 PM MDT

                   
We all know that kids love music!  Like most parents, I was eager to expose my kids to music at an early age.  It’s a good idea for more than just the joy they get out of it.  As we’ve said before on the
Fun With Kidsongs Blog, music enhances a child’s brain development and improves their success in school later in life.  I sang to my kids when they were babies, played music at home and in the car and took them to toddler music classes.  But once my older reached school age, I realized that it was time to take it up a notch.

After doing some research online and talking to other parents, I found out that for the age five and up crowd, the piano is a logical choice, mainly because it’s easiest for a beginner.  A year or so of instruction on the piano or keyboard provides a great foundation.  My child learned basic music theory concepts -- we’re talking the easy stuff -- the music alphabet, what quarter, half and whole notes are and the location of the keys on the keyboard.  All the while she learned fun, familiar songs such as “
Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.  I started my daughter in a group lesson offered by our local Parks and Recreation Department.  It saved me money and I was able to gauge how receptive she was to learning an instrument.  The teacher was creative and made the experience varied and fun.  


"Fooba Wooba John" from Play Along Songs

At age 7, my child expressed an interest in learning other instruments, namely the violin.  Violin is another relatively easy instrument for a school-age child to learn and with a year of piano under her belt, she should find easier to transition between instruments.  I like the idea or her learning a string instrument – I greatly enjoyed playing the violin in my junior high orchestra.  So now the challenge is finding a quality used violin – either to rent or buy.  I have already found a number of qualified teachers in my area that offer individual lessons at a good price.  I like the idea of a young, energetic college student who is looking to earn some extra money.  I want to make this a positive experience for my daughter – a far cry from the cranky old woman who taught me how to play Chopin on the piano at age 9.

If you and your children decide to take the plunge into the world of music lessons, another ongoing hurdle is getting them to practice.  You know your child best, and it may take some trial and error to find the best way to get it accomplished.  I’ve found that there has to be some kind of external incentive.  You can try a sticker chart which rewards their efforts at the end of the week – for example, a new book or a trip out for ice cream.  I’ve found that a timed practice session is not as useful as setting a goal for practice.  Focus on a couple of difficult lines or a problematic section, starting with a very slow tempo and slowly bringing the tempo up.  Once it is played correctly and with expressiveness, she is done for the day.  That way, she focuses on perfecting the piece instead of going through the motions while watching the clock.  

Even if you don’t go the route of lessons early on in your child’s life, exposing them to different artistic/musical outlets will reward them throughout their lifetime.  Don’t forget that singing in a choir, theatre performances and dance are all beneficial to your child’s development and love of music.  I’m sure I will have more stories and helpful hints as we continue on our musical journey!

By the way, check out our terrific CD/Songbooks which come with sheet music for many of your favorite Kidsongs songs!