Vanessa Couper is a flautist, music therapist and is also known as Vee in the popular kids' entertainment trio, Tiptoe Giants. She works as a professional flautist, teaches music at a the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and works as a music therapist in schools, children's hospitals and more. Plus she's the mumma of a nine-month-old!
Here are Vanessa's top tips for encouraging kids to love music (even if you're not great at it yourself).
1. Sing, sing, sing
There is so much research to show that babies prefer the sound of their parent's voice over any other voice. As a music therapist, I often hear parents tell me they can’t sing, but it really doesn’t matter to your bub.
Singing to your child as a baby will start their love of music early, as well as assist with so many other positive developments such as language, bonding with parents, assisting with relaxation and encouraging fine and gross motor skills through music and movement.
2. Keep music simple and get creative
You don’t need fancy instruments to make music. You can play on pots and pans, spoons, or water bottles filled with rice!
When children come to own an instrument such as a flute, piano or violin, it’s important they learn how to care for their instrument, but it’s also important we don’t make it something so precious that kids don’t feel allowed or confident to really explore it.
Listen to Kinderling Conversation:
If you have a piano in the house, move it to a public place where the family gathers - somewhere that will invite socialising and spontaneous music-making. Keep the flute on a flute stand so that it doesn’t need to be packed away and opened up every time they want to play - there will be a lot more ‘spontaneous’ play if instruments are made accessible and easy to grab when the inspiration arises.
I have heard of schools placing pianos in the playground - this is such a great way to show the inclusivity music can provide, and how accessible it can be to anyone.
3. Don’t put time limits on music-making
Avoid enforcing a rule of 'you must practice 30 minutes a day'. Instead, encourage your child to learn a piece from ear by themselves, or to make up a song that reminds them of a scene (the beach, rainforest).
Creative play like this will in turn motivate and empower the child to want to learn more, or to master the next note or piece they have.
4. Join a band
Music is so fun when playing with others. We learn really important life skills when in these group scenarios, such as listening to others, responding to others and working coherently towards a common goal with peers. Sharing music with others can be a really powerful and rewarding experience.
5. Listen to kids' music with kids and embrace it!
There are so many wonderful people out there making fantastic music for children - did I mention Tiptoe Giants?!
Sure, it’s great when our child loves listening to the music we listen to, but there’s also plenty of reasons why kids' music is developmentally appropriate and engaging for children's brains. So allow your music listening with your children to be diverse and interesting, as the more types of music they hear, the more expansive their tastes and respect of music from different genres, cultures and times will inevitably be.
6. Try to learn a musical instrument
If you don’t play an instrument yourself, try and find some time to learn one (and if you do already, perhaps pick up another instrument)! It’s so fun and never too late to start.
You could start to learn the ukulele, for example, and find you’re playing a song in no time with some help from Youtube lessons and videos.
Apart from the fact you can play and sing with your kids if you decide to learn an instrument, learning an instrument is so good for our brains. It also reminds and gives us as parents a little more insight into the processes involved with learning a new skill - and you will truly be in awe of your child’s musical learning!
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