The importance of music in the lives of kids: take notes

Music education has molded many kids into successful adults, even if their success has come from a vein of society having no relation to music.

Public schools are having to fight to keep music and the arts funded adequately in order for the students to thrive, and I think this is a shame. The point of this post is not to bash the decline of musical instruction.  But I think it’s imperative that we encourage our children to absorb music in the many outlets of their lives. The intelligence required to write classical music is obvious, regardless of whether you know what the musical notation “says” – the benefits of early music education is widely documented.

So how do you teach a love of music?

I was blessed with parents who love music, and they are whistling, singing, or enjoying music all the time. If their house is devoid of tunes, then there’s no one home.

Don’t let your kids escape the influence of music. Yes, you can teach the chord progressions of all types of music in their respective major, minor, and diminished scales. You cannot, however, teach how to feel music.  So as a music-loving mom to small children, I figure if I fill my kids’ life with music now, it will remain—and down the road, they can learn how to interpret and feel it all their own.

There’s instruction – but what about music improvisation?

Music improvisation is highly regarded, but how do you teach improvisation to your kids? That’s like teaching a mother how to… mother.  No matter how many you read, the birth books can’t prepare you and your spouse for the 48-days-of-no-sleep-and-I-still-have-to-function feeling.

How did Ella Fitzgerald feel during Blue Skies, or how about George Gershwin while making Rhapsody in Blue?   How do you define the likes of Otis Redding or Paul McCartney?  You can’t .

The common thread of all those above is a musical foundation that had been injected into all their hearts.  Instinct and emotion were given the reins musically.

My children are young. I have an opportunity to enhance their musical knowledge with an array of instruments in-house, but for now, I won’t force them to read music. I will try (my darndest) to teach them music as long as they enjoy it.   But the minute they’re not obviously enjoying it, I will resume my role as the mom that sings while she cooks and cleans.   After all, Sir Paul McCartney doesn’t read music, and he’s allowed music into his life, eh?

I have heard that the acquisition of a foreign language allows for a more seamless life.   Music is a language, and it’s one of the most malleable, expressive, forgiving and universal of all communication. Give your kids the tools to learn this language.

Create a musical environment at home

kid with a piano
Photo by Rolands Lakis

Regardless of your personal music ability, make the craft accessible to your kids. Look on craigslist, or look up a local music store. Many places offer reasonable rates for instrument rental if you don’t want to commit to an outright purchase.  Go to garage sales and see what musical treasures you can find.

If you don’t know an instrument, there are plenty of resources to learn while you teach. Google it.  I learned how to play the ukulele from just a few web searches and an eBay purchase.  Sit down with your kids and pick out an instrument, and give them a full range of choices.

Even if you can’t carry a tune with a forklift, one of our jobs as parents is to provide opportunities to explore and develop natural gifts – regardless of the subject matter.   If you never swing the hammer, it’s impossible to hit the nail on the head.

If you have infants, or children that are a bit too young to take on an instrument, Musical Squash has a great article about an incredible series from Rockabye Baby! Records. They produce instrumental arrangements from a wide genre of popular bands. Your favorite songs, suitable for their nap. Really.

To save you time if you’d like to explore more options, I’ve compiled a list of many products in the Simple Kids Shop.  Use the Audio/Music category as a quick database for your kids’ music.

What role does music play in your family?


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  1. Dominique

    I do believe that exposing kids to music will aid their development. I personally started my kids on music and movement when they were 8-9mths old. We started off with simple percussion instruments. When they reached 3yrs old I started them on formal piano lessons. I do intend to expose them to other instruments when they are older

  2. Maya

    Great article. So true – creating a love for music is key. And you are right that this does not come from reading books. I think it can only come from loving music ourselves and exposing ourselves and our kids to all kinds of music. I just heard my little one make up a song yesterday 🙂
    Like creating a love for reading, creating a love for music gives children such a wonderful “friend” to fall back on … music was my one single biggest companion growing up!

    Maya´s last blog post…Memetales Newsletter 3

  3. Rhea - Experiencing Motherhood

    What a great article and I couldn’t agree more! It’s so important to create an environment of love and appreciation for music because music is a powerful thing. It can soothe and inspire and motivate. Thanks for the reminder!

    Rhea – Experiencing Motherhood´s last blog post…Time Flies When You Have a Kid

  4. Southern Gal

    We always have music playing in the car and in the house somewhere. My two oldest play piano, and guitar and drums. My baby who is seven wants to learn guitar and piano, also. He has a small guitar, an electronic keyboard, a drum set (we have a small set and a ‘real’ set) and his sister’s piano to make music on. I will probably teach him recorder soon and let him choose from there where he’d like to go with lessons…or not. He loves to sing and I think that comes from the music in the background all the time.

  5. Nicole

    So true. I have little ones-two under two-and I’ve already noticed the power of music with them. I am not a good singer, but I sing to them all day long. We make up songs as we run around, as we do little chores, as we play with stuffed animals. Though we do have a little piano, I hope to go deeper into lessons and more formal learning in the years ahead. But, for now, I’m just trying to sing to them all day. I find that when I sing, I’m happier and they’re entertained.

    I wrote about singing (even to myself) a while back over at my blog…Here’s the link:

  6. Liz

    I’ve been an elementary school music teacher for 9 years, and have been a musician most of my life – but music took on a whole new importance to me after the birth of my daughter. I love that in my home we are always singing, dancing or playing “drums” whether it be on a toy drum or on the tops of boxes, coffee cans or anything else we can find! Thanks for sharing these insights with your readers – I love it!

    Liz´s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday

  7. Lisa Byrne

    So true! I find music plays such a key role in our home. A few months ago, I found an old guitar I had brought back from traveling in Guatemala…worn and missing a string, my son attached himself to it and has been playing it all day long ever since. It’s a blast to see.

    Lisa Byrne´s last blog post…The Magic of Touch: A Gift For The One You Love

  8. Sherri (Serene Journey)

    Joan, lovely post. My husband and I have pretty well given up TV all together and now music is on in our home ALL the time.

    We have 2 little ones and I’ve always sung little songs to them and quite often make up my own and they both love it. Our eldest (18 months) is already gaining an appreciation for music and breaks out into dance whenever a new song comes on (he has some pretty sweet dance moves! :)).

    My husband also has a guitar that he brings out from time to time and our eldest thinks it’s pretty cool. We will certainly encourage formal lessons if the kids want to but like you say the moment they are no longer enjoying it, it’ll be back to singing and dancing like nobody’s watching.

  9. Karen

    We have music on in the house a lot – rock, folk, bluegrass, classical, Spanish pop, beach music (not the Beach Boys), big band and more. We can’t afford formal lessons, but we do have a keyboard which they “play.” My older son is learning to play the recorder at school for which I’m so grateful. I hope the program is still around when his younger brother enters the 4th grade.

    Karen´s last blog post…The 100 step challenge

  10. Lazy Mom Leslie

    Great article. Music brings such a sense of calm to our house. I try to keep it playing in the background all the time and we usually end up discussing the song or the musician.

    Lazy Mom Leslie´s last blog post…Guest Post by Patti

  11. cindy platt

    Music is everywhere. We start by modeling to our children to stop and listen. Rhythm, rhyme and repetition of sounds in our language and the beating of our hearts keeps sound moving. If you can’t sing well, sing loud. Have a DVD Tuesday where you introduce different genres of music and artists every Tuesday for the morning wake up, movement time, car rides. Music is the most awesome way to learn about language, feelings and invoke discussions you never dreamed of until your child asks WHY?

    cindy platt´s last blog post…On the Other Side of the Desk

  12. Taylor at Household Management 101

    Kids naturally love music, so it is easy to keep them loving it if we play it with them. I also found from my own childhood that learning to play an instrument really impacted me for the better. I am not great, but I play the flute, still do, and being able to read music and understand some basic terms really has been useful for me. I am definitely encouraging each of my children to play an instrument, even if it just stays a hobby or something they did when they were a kid I think it will be a good thing in their lives.

    Taylor at Household Management 101´s last blog post…Feb 18, Use An AR Reading List To Find Books At Your Child’s Reading Level

  13. Writer Dad

    There is no doubt! Our children both started violin at three. By no means do we expect them to be prodigies, but we do expect them to have a basic understanding and appreciation of music. Our daughter is now seven and we can see how much the early music training has had on her development, especially when it comes to math and language. She is also bilingual (English and Spanish) and neither Mom or I are.

    Writer Dad´s last blog post…Running Dialogue

  14. Carrie at NaturalMomsTalkRadio

    One of my prized possessions is our piano. I snagged it at an estate sale for a great price. All the kids love to play with it, and the boys are taking it upon themselves to learn in a more systematic way with the piano books I bought.

    Lessons are out of my budget for now but it’s definitely a goal. I played piano and loved it when I was a kid, I so wish I had kept it up as an adult.

    Carrie at NaturalMomsTalkRadio´s last blog post…Wahm Wednesday: Profitable Mom Blogging

  15. Elizabeth

    This is a great article! My husband and I, and the rest of our family, all have VERY different tastes in music. As a result, the world is my 2-year-old’s instrument. Everything he puts in his hand becomes a drum stick and he beats on everything, singing a song at the same time. If he doesn’t have something to play, he sings, and he does the eyes-half-closed-making-faces singing, like it comes from his soul.

    I don’t know if it is also related to being around different languages (My family is bilingual in English and Spanish, his father speaks Spanish and is learning English and I read to him in French as much as possible), but he definitely picks out a beat and rhythm in everything he does.

  16. Rebecca

    Great article and I especially love the first photo – that’s the Terrace here in Madison, WI! Best place ever in the summer 🙂

  17. steadymom

    We’ve tried to introduce a love for many different varieties of music from an early age with our three preschoolers. I’ve especially enjoyed learning about various composers/classical music with them. Many mornings we let them choose which composer to listen to – they each have a different favorite. Last week we had a special moment when we YouTubed an orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. They were all transfixed!

    steadymom´s last blog post…learning: pondering the presidents

  18. Kika

    I LOVE the sound of music in my (sometimes NOISY) home. My older kids play instruments (electric guitar & piano) and my three year old loves to play on the piano, sing, dance and play on her “toy” guitar. We almost always have music on the stereo (like classical, jazz, contemporary christian) for music appreciation. Since the kids were tiny we’ve bought beautiful (though very inexpensive) fair-trade instruments from a shop called “Ten Thousand Villages” to allow us to enjoy the beauty of music in a visual way! My husband brought back a drum from Africa – wish we had one per child! I made some simple “ribbon flags” for the girls to use when they dance. I honestly don’t care if my kids become fabulous musicians or not- unless it is their passion- but I do care that they enjoy the beauty and creative aspect of music.

  19. Carmen

    I have the ABC’s by They Might be Giants and my daughter LOVES it. We have played it for her since she was 6 months old. At 21 months she still loves to listen to it (or watch the DVD) and dance along. Highly recommend this one.

  20. V. Higgins

    What an awesome post! I’m not a momma but I know that music impacts me greatly and I have so many wonderful memories tied to music. (Roadtrips with my dad, learning harmonies to Beatles songs, with my mom blasting out “Danger Zone” and singing at the top of our lungs). My husband loves classical music and we’re now building our collection. I’ve started playing it at work and in the morning at home. Winter is a hard time for me but having good music (Chopin, Pride & Prejudice soundtrack, Nickel Creek, etc) on my commute or while I’m at work can help chase some of the blues away.

  21. Cici

    Great post.
    Music is very important aspiration to children.

  22. sandy

    Amen, sister! We ARE a music family. Started my daughter in Suzuki Violin at age 3! Now at 12 she plays in weddings, funerals, church, in theatres. It’s amazing. Since my whole blog is about entertaining – our kids are active in sharing their music with our guests.

    Loved this post! Love you, Simple Mom! 🙂 (Come check out my pink Blissdom bag – my daughter stole it from me!:)

    sandy´s last blog post…Creativity & Learning Combined!

  23. Katie

    Yes, yes, yes! 🙂 I am a musician by training, have taught public school and private lessons, and now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, I teach early childhood music & movement classes! I highly recommend checking out the Musikgarten curriculum – I think it’s soooo wonderful for both child development and cultivating a true love for music in a non-performance-oriented way.

    Katie´s last blog post…january

  24. The Weakonomist

    Music was really important in my house growing up. We learned to play piano and sang in church choirs. I played a few brass instruments in middle school and taught myself guitar in college. While I don’t play much of anything anymore my parents did instill in mr a love for music. I listen to it all the time.

    One trip to my parents’ house will show you how important it is for them. They have a working pump organ!

  25. Lucie @ Unconventional Origins

    Love it! Music is a big part of our home, it’s always playing!

    My son is 14mo – we got him a little drum and he just loves it to death. When he beats on it we also encourage him to dance – dancing and music go hand in hand! And I can’t sing worth a lick, but I sing him a song every night after sorry time and he knows to expect it now, he loves it.

    When you discover your baby loves a song, it also helps to play it A LOT. Over Christmas we discovered our son loved the Temptations version of Silent Night – the more we played it, the more he started trying to “sing” his heart out!

    GREAT post!

  26. Edi

    Last night my dd (aged 9) told me that a girl she met liked Rock n Roll – so I asked dd “what did you say your favorite type of music was?” “Opera” she replied.

    In addition to exposing our kids to a mixture of music – this past fall we bought a keyboard to see if the kids were interested and in order to teach them to read music. Turns out dd had an interest and her DAD found out that HE loved to play too! So he bought a real piano. And now both dad and the girl are learning to play (self-taught right now).

    Edi´s last blog post…The Lobotomist

  27. MsJoanie

    The Rockabye Baby music is cute but I have to question, why should we change the music we listen to, or lull it down for our children?

    I grew up in a very musical family, both parents and grandparents sang in choirs (as did I), my mom plays the organ and piano, I learned to play four instruments and how to read and write music, and never once was the radio turned down when Chicago, Cream or Eric Clapton came on… nor Count Basie, Chopin, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington or Nat King Cole.

    I grew up appreciating the music of my parents, my grandparents, my rockin’ Aunt Beth (she had dinner with the Bee Gees!) and Uncle Will (he danced with Grace Jones and got me autographed pictures from Erasue and the Pet Shop Boys!). And through it all, I developed my own taste and talent for music.

    Today, my husband and I listen to a constantly changing variety of music off our satellite radio and I hope our child will benefit from the same diversity I enjoyed growing up.

    • simplemom

      MsJoanie – Because I know Joan in real life, I can attest that her family plays original music in their home all the time, and that in no way do they substitute children-ized versions for the real thing.

      I think the nice thing about the Rockabye Baby music is that it’s good lullaby, sleepytime music that’s not saccharine.

      Joan can feel free to chime in with her $.02, of course. 🙂

      • Joan

        Hi! I will chime in.

        I brought up the Rockabye Baby Records for those readers who enjoy playing music to their children as they sleep.

        Personally, some of the music we love is simply too loud for our kids to remain asleep while listening to, so these softer renditions offer a fun way to introduce some of our favorite tunes to sleeping babies.

        We definitely turn up all of the originals when the sun is shining! 🙂

        Joan´s last blog post…Assessment of Your Child’s Learning Style

  28. kelly

    I totally agree about the importance of music!

    I stink at singing in tune, but ya know what? My son (who is currently 18 months) does not care! He loves to hear my sing. I have been singing through every diaper change for the past month because it is the only thing that keeps him still! I borrowed some kiddie CD’s from our library to play in the car because I got tired of singing the same 3 songs that I could remember. I’m working on extending my personal playlist! Speaking of music in the car, on a 2+ hour trip not too long ago when I was alone w/ my son he started fussing and NOTHING would quiet him down so I started singing songs and I sang and sang and sang for over 45 mins- he stopped whining and just listened and then I looked back and he was asleep!!!

    kelly´s last blog post…Nigh-Nigh!

  29. Mary

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very musical but here is one of the memories I have of my children. The three youngest were sitting in the back seat .. two were girls older than the youngest son. The two girls were singing “Mary had a little lamb” and the youngest son was crying. “Why are you crying?” I asked trying to drive. “They won’t sing “Uptown Girl!” ” he wailed!!

    Mary´s last blog post…A different idea for using your emergency fund …

  30. Heather

    I’m a dance teacher at a public school–same goes for dance and movement! Luckily if a kid hears music, he’s naturally going to move. I sing to my kids constantly. It’s one of the best memories I have of my mom–she sang to me all the time. The more they are exposed to it as kids, the less afraid they will be to try it as teenagers. You can’t go wrong!

    Heather´s last blog post…Boring post

  31. Carolyn

    I totally agree! Music is so important! I’ve been heavily involved in music throughout my life, both singing and playing a variety of instruemtns. Both my parents are music professors, my husband is a hs music teacher (so I could easily get up on a soapbox about music education in public schools! 🙂 and my brother is in graduate school at Julliard for Jazz Bass. Needless to say, music has been a HUGE part of my life, and continues to be. I find that music is a really special “language” that makes my relationship with my husband more intimate as well. I wanted to add a little note, too about kids and music…according to reliable research (my dad studied this for his doctorate) a child’s musical potential and aptitude remains “moveable” until age 9, when it levels off, and they’re pretty much stuck with what they’ve got. This is not to discourage people whose children are past age 9, but to encourage those with children younger than that, to provide as much musical experience as possible to increase your child’s music aptitude. People of ANY age, with ANY music aptitude can gain amazing benefits by making music an important part of their life!

    Carolyn´s last blog post…Successful shopping

  32. Kathy

    Thanks for the post about music. Just one thing:
    “Yes, you can teach the chord progressions of all types of music in their respective major, minor, and diminished scales.”

    Putting on my music professor hat to let you know that there is no such thing as a diminished scale. There is a type of chord called a diminished chord. In a major scale, it is built on the 7th scale degree (for example, b-d-f) in C Major. Stepping down from my lecture box now 🙂

    Kathy´s last blog post…Major Scale exercises

    • Joan

      Kathy- Exactly. I was on scholarship for vocal performance in college once upon a time & my mis-representation is what I have left from my Music Theory classes. I do know it’s a specific type of chord within a minor scale; I simply wasn’t paying attention. Thanks for pointing it out! I love it when readers put on their respective hats– please continue to do so.

  33. Shawn/Lifeatbuttercupfarm

    Hi, Joan, WE LOVE MUSIC here at Buttercup Farm. Music played such an important role in the positive memories of my childhood. So much so, that one of my personal family goals is to make sure that it fills my home in many ways. Ironically, I just wrote a post to celebrate my daughters first duet with me on flute. What wonderful parallels our articles have!

    Shawn/Lifeatbuttercupfarm´s last blog post…Music Memories

  34. Sandra from mum space

    In Australia they have a lot of early childhood music for preschoolers, both at preschool and through private classes. My son has just started Kindergarten at a public school and his school is very committed to music but it is at extra cost to families. We are choosing to enroll our son in the extra music lessons as I believe it is so important for him. He is desperate to play drums! I was not brought up with much music but I love it and craved it as a child. I have always made sure there is lots of music for my children and as babies they loved a CD called Baby Beethoven for sleep time. They both have a wide range of musical tastes from classical to pop to folk, to country and my daughter has a real leaning towards rock (she calls them man songs!). I have never been a big fan of the specifically produced “kids” music but I have to say it is getting a lot better. Our daughter likes a lot of the They Might Be Giants songs and Elizabeth Mitchell. There is also a big movement in Australia within the paediatric occupational therapy circles toward using music with specific beats per minute for ADHD and sensory issues. Gen Jereb makes music for children to help with modulation, self regulation and getting “in-sync”. We don’t have children with any diagnosed difficulties but we still enjoy her CDs in our house. The quiet songs and meditation on her Cool Bananas CD never fails to relax EVERYONE in our house and after a really busy week we have all fallen asleep on the lounge room floor to it!
    Rock on everyone!

    Sandra from mum space´s last blog post…Don’t forget the milk…

  35. Krista

    music is SO important in the life of my family – i play the piano and the flute, and my husband plays guitar, drums and a little piano. our 4 year old is having a blast exploring his musical options – no formal lessons for now, we just let him try what he wants to. we have always taken him with us to worship team practices at church and he loves trying out the drums and dancing around while we practice. he is one of those kids with a “soundtrack for life” – he sings everywhere he goes, no matter what he is doing.

    Krista´s last blog post…Hot Fudge Sauce. ’nuff said.

  36. Nancy

    We encourage music in our home wether it be singing or making your own music. We have 2 daughters and we’ve made it policy that they must play an instrument for a minimum of 2 years. Our oldest played the clarinet in 5th and 6th grade. Not her thing, however she loves vocal music and has taken every opportunity for choir music since she was in the 3rd grade. Our youngest daughter is the one who plays music — clarinet and piano. She’s done clarinet for 3 years and piano for 4. She plans to continue with both through high school. It’s very clear that they have different musical interests and so we’ve encouraged them to follow what they enjoy. I played piano for 9 or 10 years as a child and our youngest daughter is now playing on the piano that I learned on — a 1909 Baldwin Grand Piano that my daddy bought for me in 1971. I love that and so does my daddy.

    Nancy´s last blog post…Simply Lunch

  37. Moltomom

    My 3-year old son sings along to my CDs in the car and requests one in particular that he likes to call “The Cowboy Song” from the album, “The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter”. It’s really cute and I’m thrilled that I don’t have to be subjected to kiddie car tunes!

    Both my husband and I have played instruments as children and look forward to starting him (and our soon-to-be-born son) on an instrument as well (if he’s interested of course!).

    Moltomom´s last blog post…Free Yourself from the Paper Trap

  38. rachel

    I am incredibly NOT musical–can’t carry a tune or hold one in my head, even. To add to that, I have anxiety and one of the things that triggers it is too much noise/ sensory overload. I am usually patient, but when I am on sensory overload, patience goes out the door and I am a mean mom!!!

    I do want my kids to have the opportunity to love what I often just don’t get (but would like to). One thing that has helped me is studying a different composer every school “term” (four terms a year). Which basically means listening to that composer!!

    We take our guidance on who to study from a Charlotte Mason Homeschooling website (otherwise I would have no idea who to choose), check out cd’s from the library, and listen. I mention the composer’s name often while the music plays.

    Thanks for this post. It comes at a time when I am realizing that we need more music in our lives for the peace of our home and the nurture of our children.

    rachel´s last blog post…Silver is the new Black (for a limited time)

  39. Jodie R.

    As a music teacher, I couldn’t agree more 🙂 On facebook, I linked to your post so my other music education buddies can read!

    So far, our school levy has failed twice, and music, art, and PE has been eliminated k-6. We went from have nineteen music teachers in the district (seven elementaries, two middle schools, two junior highs, and soon-to-be two high schools). We now have seven music teachers after the layoffs. More layoffs are coming- the January board meeting with tell the tale. On the chopping block is 7-8th grade music, which means another 4 music teachers, me included, will lose our jobs.

    So I hear you sister!
    .-= Jodie R.´s last blog ..Won’t You Play Along? =-.

  40. Brian Mikus

    I agree with the statements made above about music. However do you feel that perhaps children are just not in love with music in the same ways they used to be. With technology today it seems kids are more focused on playing video games and with the games they can play games like rock band thus limiting their perceived need for musical development? I am Temple University student and musician and for my marketing class my group is focusing on the music education and donating to the Philly Youth orchestra. To debate the above statement and learn more about out cause check out the provided URL.

  41. Duane Shinn@ Piano Lessons For Beginners

    I agree with you 100%. I believe music in the lives of children is a great way to allow a child to let him/her express them self in a healthy way. Music lessons are also just one more way to keep a child’s time occupied, while their not getting into any trouble! Thanks for posting.

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