Making Music as a Family

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I grew up making music. My mom insisted on piano lessons as soon as I could read. I sang in church and all through school. In middle school, I decided the flute was not unique enough, so I took up playing the oboe. I had the lead in a musical and I learned to sing scat for jazz choir. And if you’re wondering, yes, I was clearly extremely cool in high school.

All this to say, music was a huge part of my life for a long time. Now, as I’m a decade into my career and mom to a busy two-year-old, I seldom get to do more than sing along to the car radio or whistle as I put away the dishes. I want to incorporate music into my life in a way that gets my daughter excited about listening to and creating music herself. So, I’ve compiled a few ways that I’m working on this—maybe these will inspire and help you, too! 

Listen to all kinds of music together.

toddler playing harmonica music

I consider myself something of a Sesame Street DJ, as I can find a celebrity song from the show for any and every occasion. But more seriously, there are so many kinds of music to expose your children to!

While new research has shown that listening to classical music doesn’t actually increase your intelligence, it is beautiful and can suit many different moods. Your children should hear all your favorite tunes from when you were in high school—edited versions as needed, of course. Streaming services and the internet make it possible to explore songs from every era, style, and region of the world.

Make it a family challenge to listen to only jazz for one week. The next week, try only songs recorded before 2000. Or, use one week to dig into why everyone is so excited about Korean music, or K-pop. Your kids will start to develop an ear for different rhythms and sounds, and you may even find some new favorites!

Make music part of play time.

Naturally, my toddler isn’t ready to pick up the violin quite yet. Still, I want her to realize the potential to make music is all around her. We started our daughter’s musical toy collection with a set of bongos like this. These are great for babies as soon as they can sit up. Her newest addition is a children’s harmonica which she just got for her second birthday and loves already. We also have a tambourine and a few small maracas she’s been shaking since she was just a few months old. 

My parents recently added a musical and sensory element to their garden for the grandkids. It is made of chains and xylophone keys, with a plastic hammer to “play” the different sounds. The toy is like a giant and interactive wind-chime. It was inexpensive to put together, and my daughter and her cousins love it. Learn more about creating a musical garden for yourself. 

Participate in musical experiences.

This step is, like so many things, trickier in a pandemic world. Normally I would take my daughter to concerts in our local park. We would try baby classes, or even visit a music store to see and touch different instruments. COVID makes all these things more difficult, but there are still ways to experience music together. 

Although most concert tours and shows have been cancelled or postponed, Billboard is sharing weekly lists of live virtual performances from top artists. There are free concerts and those with ticket purchase options. If you’re looking for something more local, the Michigan State University College of Music is offering free virtual concerts, from classical ensembles to a Music for Social Justice series, with dates through December 13. 

If your kids are old enough to perform, set up a family concert night where you each prepare something to sing or play for each other. Make it fancy, with assigned seats and popcorn and standing ovations for everyone. Utilize technology to share the performances with grandparents or friends so they can enjoy, too.

Take advantage of local offerings.

If you’re interested in digging deeper into music with your kids, there are local businesses in the Lansing area who specialize in just that! Here are just a few: 

  • The MSU Community Music School | The MSU Community Music School in East Lansing provides music education and therapy for all. There are private lessons, group classes, and summer camp options. There are options online as well!
  • Sigh Studio of Music | This Old Town Lansing studio offers classes and private lesson instruction online.
  • The Okemos Music Academy | The Academy has been teaching music in the area for 20 years, with lessons in person and online.

These are just a few ways you can start making music a bigger part of your life, and your kids’ lives. Before long you’ll be jamming as a family band, I’m sure of it!

Looking for other ways to enhance your child’s learning? Check out our post on Field Trip Locations and Programs for 2020 for loads of fun, local ideas!

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