Teaching Toddlers Music

Today I broke out a harp music book in front of my kid for the first time since I started reading books to him. It’s been a while since I played from a music book, I’m not gonna lie. Since he’s been born, I’ve been busy with reading guitar and ukulele chords/tabs because they’re way easier, and also a lot of fun. (By the way, for those that aren’t in the “harp club”, harp music looks almost the same as piano music. There’s a treble clef and a bass clef with “golf club” notes on a 5-lined staff.) I’ve never been particularly gifted at reading music, because I generally prefer learning tunes by ear.

My son who’s now nearly 2, gripped the book with interest and flipped through the thin and fragile pages. I worriedly looked on–he’s used to handling board books, and if left unattended with a paper book… well, he might rip it to shreds. He closely considered the markings on the page.

I said, “Son, it’s another language, and I’m gonna teach it to you.” It’s important to me that my son be musically literate early in life. And it’s not so much the notes on the page that matter to me, it’s being able to listen closely, and hear the subtleties of pitch, volume and tone, and be able to mimic them. Myself being hearing impaired, subtleties in sound are important all the time.

So… hmm… how do you do that? Well I hate to disappoint you here, since this is a personal blog with no concrete answers. I don’t know. I’m currently looking into this answer by a) being my usual music-obsessed-self and singing/playing music whenever I can and b) reading blogs about teaching toddlers music. If I come across some tips that work really well for me, I’ll share them here.

So far? the thing that works the best is exposure to simple children’s music, and lots of it. Over and over and over. Ask me–how many times have I sung Old McDonald’s Farm? Too many to count. But he’s got the “E-I-E-I-O” part down pat. That’s his favorite part to sing along with!

In the morning on the way to daycare, Ian absentmindedly hums “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to himself in his car seat. He does mouth some of the words here and there while humming. The pitches aren’t exact, but you can definitely tell what song he’s singing based on the relationship between the pitches.

While we change diaper we sing “Wheels on the Bus”. He like to sing along to the “bump bump bump” and the “wahh wahh wahh” parts, and finishes the “Ahhh throoo” (town) part with a flourish.

He can clap along to rhythms. He’s not precise, but he likes to clap. He also likes to dance. He shows a lot of interest in all the musical instruments we have around the house. We have lots! Two harps, an electric guitar, a ukulele, a child’s zither, two tin whistles, two child’s xylophones and one drum. Some of them are indeed toys, but some are real instruments and he plays with both.

Just run with it, encourage it, love it.

Further Reading

Image Source: Donnie Ray Jones

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