Music has an incredible effect on developing children, experts say
Children have an innate love of music. Education experts agree that playing an instrument can help in the total learning process. Jane Arrowsmith has been teaching piano and theory for over 30 years and her best advice for parents wanting their child to learn an instrument is this: “It’s the child’s journey,” she says. “Have them love music and they will carry it throughout their [lives].”
To encourage a child’s musical interest, play music at home, Arrowsmith says. “Put on any type of music to sing or dance to,” she says, and if your child expresses an interest in learning an instrument, find a certified/experienced teacher. “You want a teacher who can make high quality learning fun and who can adapt to the learning style of your child,” says Arrowsmith. “I have often taught siblings and used different teaching styles for each.” She says her customized approach helps her students thrive and feel empowered. “I relate to each child individually and watch them blossom — it’s about them learning and loving their music.”
Monkey Rock Music owner and director John King says participation for parents in his program is key. “Our programs are geared for children four and under,” says King, “and it’s all about having fun. As we say, it’s not about teaching children to play music, but to love music.” He says the parents really get into participating and their children are engaged because they are doing something with their parents. “The parents participating takes the mystery out of music,” says King. “And if your child expresses an interest in learning an instrument, I’d wait until they are a little older — eight, nine or 10 — and then provide the opportunity. My own two sons didn’t do anything for years but then one picked up the drums and the other now plays bass. So, don’t push but stay interested. Let them make that emotional connection to music and the commitment needed to learn.”
Olivia Riddell, president, owner and international director of Music for Young Children (MYC) says that music is a language and learning to play an instrument — including the practicing and the discipline — will help a child in anything they do and provide a firm foundation to go anywhere.
“Love of music is innate in children,” says Riddell, “but it has to be nurtured.” She says to start with the fun aspects of music and to make it appropriate, age and development-wise. “At MYC we help your child explore and discover what they might like,” says Riddell. “It’s not just piano — we use puppets to explore the keyboard along with a story, we dance and sing and even our three-year-olds are learning how to read music. It’s important to work in the structure of music but we do it in a fun way.”
She says the parents attend classes as well and they get to see how engaged their children are with the music. “Getting your child involved in music is kind of like how they get involved in sports,” says Riddell. “Your child may have seen a soccer game and thought, ‘that looks like fun,’ so you get them enrolled in a local soccer club. They have to be coached on proper play and learn some techniques to work with the team. You can do the same with music. Go to concerts, find out what interests them, and then if they do take lessons, they’ll be engaged.”