People are born with a natural attraction to music—and there’s a lot of good research showing that exposure to music education (not just listening) has many benefits for babies and toddlers alike. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to keep your busy toddler or preschooler interested in music.
Keep in mind that most experts agree that the preschool years are too early to start formal music lessons. They don’t have the physical dexterity to play most instruments, and the experience can be so frustrating that it turns them off to music completely.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying to expose your preschooler to music and the fundamental concepts behind music, such as melody and rhythm. Here are some great tips to keep your preschooler engaged:
- Make it fun! You might have read all about the science behind music education, but your preschooler probably won’t care much. Instead, learning to play music should be fun. Provide access to lots of different instruments or ways to make sound. Let them experiment and play with rhythm and sound, but don’t try to force them to “learn” the instrument.
- Avoid instruments that are too challenging or physically difficult. With their smaller hands and less developed finger muscles, it’s challenging for a preschooler to play a difficult stringed instrument like a guitar. If they do show an interest in an “adult” instrument, like a violin, provide a child-sized version and let them experiment with it. Violins in particular are available in smaller, child sizes. Piano is also an excellent first choice.
- Let them guide you. Most musicians will tell you they have “their” instrument—even if they play multiple instruments well. If your preschooler begins to show interest in a particular instrument early on, let them try it out. You could be sparking a lifelong interest.
- Expose them to different types of music. Musical preferences are deeply embedded in cultures, but exposing your preschooler to different types of music and making music part of your home is a great way to pique their interest in playing music later in life. Children who grow up around music, watching their parents enjoy music and even making music themselves, are more likely to pursue music.
- Sign up for music classes. There are many different opinions on when children should start learning instruments, with many experts recommending holding off on formal piano or violin lessons until a child is around 6 years of age. However, there are plenty of options for much younger children, even babies, to get exposed to music.
Reviewed by Sara Connolly, March 2020
- Start by making music education fun.
- Provide lots of opportunities for your preschooler to make music.
- Create a musical home environment.
- Don’t focus too early on difficult or “grown-up” instruments.