Kids’ Music Classes: Diversifying the Musical Mix

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music classesSo, this week I received some feedback from a long-time mom in our music program suggesting that we include more popular well known children’s songs in our Making Music Together classes…more like the other 2 music classes they also attend in North Toronto. My first question of course, was “why would you want to pay for yet another music class that sings the same old songs you already know?”

Most parents only know a handful of songs they are comfortable singing to their children.

Sadly, statistics show that most parents only know a handful of songs they are comfortable singing to their children. Twinkle Twinkle, ABC’s and Ba Ba Blacksheep are most certainly 3 of them….and guess what? They are all the SAME SONG! Yup. Same melody, different words.

One of the most important things research has shown us is that children need to be exposed to a wide variety of music to grow up with a rich musical foundation or “vocabulary”. As they learn and process language, we instinctively know that we have to use ALL the words with our children, not just the ones they already know (or the easy ones) if they are to grow up with a good vocabulary.

Why are we dumbing down the music we share with our children?

So, why are we dumbing it down when it comes to music? There is this mistaken assumption that children can only handle “simple” music. Songs only in 4/4 time and C major for example (think Wheels on the Bus) or child-like voices who sing off key and single instruments that sound phony. Do you have any battery operated musical toys at home? If they sound anything like the horrible musical cell phone my daughter was given, then you know what I’m talking about. There are no studies proving that children will learn more by listening to something closer to their current abilities. They need to hear the real deal!

Children will absorb whatever music you expose them to.

All children are born wired with the ability to grow up and speak the language (or languages!) that surrounds them…all we have to do is speak to them. Music learning is exactly the same! Whatever you expose them to, children will absorb it if it’s live and interactive. Rhythms based in 5/4 meter (such as the theme from Mission Impossible but common in Latin music) and tonalities such as E major pentatonic (used in a traditional Celtic song we’re exploring in class right now) can sound unusual and complex to us grown ups but a child will absorb them just as quickly as the Eensy Weensy Spider! Children cannot yet determine whether a melody is easy or challenging…it’s just music, and they will take it all in.

Children are capable of enjoying and participating in a surprisingly wide range of musical experiences. They are highly “tuned in” to sound and especially to music in the early years. If you love Jazz, Reggae or Latin music for example, share it with your child! If you give them the best “buffet” of musical choices out there, I guarantee both the children and parents will be grateful that the wheels in their brain aren’t going ‘round and round’ with the same old songs.

About Making Music Together
At Making Music we are very proud of the diversity that we offer in our music classes. We do include familiar children’s songs and recognizable folk songs in each of our 9 collections of music but the real value is found in the other songs that expose children to the new and different sounds and feelings, some from other cultures…all fun and engaging! This also helps parents increase their repertoire of songs that they can share with their children since we enjoy a new collection every season….not to mention saving them from the nerve shredding rinky-dink kiddy music they are so tired of :-).

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About Author

Risa Waldman is the Director of Making Music Together, providing outstanding early childhood music and movement classes in Toronto for 10 years. Born in Toronto, her background includes studies of Piano, Cello, Music Theory & History through The Royal Conservatory of Music, Developmental Psychology and Children’s Literature at The University of Toronto. Risa is an accomplished singer/dancer/actor having performed on stages across Canada, the U.S. and as far away as Japan She is also a graduate of the Banff Centre for Fine Arts. Risa is actively involved in Children’s Television and Theatre as a choreographer and director. She can be seen in commercials, TV & Film and was recently a judge for the Canadian Juno Awards. She has been praised for outstanding achievement in teaching, musicianship, program philosophy and parent education. Join Risa on Facebook or contact her at 416-833-1231.

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