Music offers children a wealth of benefits, from enhancing their memory, spatial reasoning skills, and language-learning capability to improving their literacy and IQs. It also offers a great opportunity to have fun and bond with your child.
But what kind of music is best for your children? Should they be allowed to listen to whatever moves them? Or, should you largely control the music your children are exposed to? Here is a collection of suggestions by various experts.
Think interaction, not listening
Children benefit most from music when they interact with it, through actions like singing, dancing, and clapping. This interaction enables their brains to make meaning of the music, a cognitive process called audiation. Therefore, when you’re selecting music to play for your child, focus on music that he can easily sing, dance to, and play along with.
Variety is best
Surround your child with a variety of genres and music. Lili Levinowitz, a professor of music education at Rowan University and co-founder of Music Together, tells parents to “create an ear food buffet” for their children. Include songs not only from your culture but other cultures, as well. Introduce your child to music you love. Try to play music with a variety of rhythms, tonalities, and keys. Eric Rasmussen, chair of early childhood music at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, suggests playing “adult quality” music and music that frequently changes its sound, such as orchestral music. Levinowitz agrees, saying that children learn “through the juxtaposition of difference.”
Classical music is especially beneficial if it tells a story or teaches children about instruments. For example, Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev and Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saens use instruments to symbolize different characters and animals. Long orchestral songs may not hold your child’s attention; aim for shorter 4–5 minute pieces.
Music to avoid
Some educators have recommended that parents mainly expose their kids to “child-friendly” music as opposed to music made specifically for children, as this music may emphasize the lyrics and neglect the tune. According to Rasmussen, children’s music is often “poorly produced, sung by children singing as if they are adults, and in major keys only.”
Music with inappropriate lyrics should also be avoided, although it’s of course up to parents what is considered inappropriate.
Just because you don’t like the music your children are drawn to, such as songs from cartoons, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to listen to it. Give them time to listen to music they like, but play music that you like, too. The more your children are exposed to different types of music, the more their tastes will broaden.