7 Easy Ways to Encourage Your Kids to Love Music

After giving birth to what we might call an “excited” baby, I quickly understood why there were so many lullabies.

Our baby cried when we changed his diaper. Cry after showering. Cry if I put her down for a moment, to shower. But if I sang to him, he would keep quiet and stare at me. Becoming a parent turned me into a regular one-woman event. I found myself making up songs to get him to eat or endure daily activities. (“Dry-dry-dry dry of the baby” was a real banger.)

It was clear that my child responded powerfully to the music. Soon, he began composing his own songs, and the years that followed were filled with singalongs, dance parties, family bands and songwriting classes—a musical life that inspired my new picture book for kids, “How to Be a Rock Star.”

The author’s children’s book, “How to Be a Rock Star,” celebrates musical children.Lisa Tolin contributed

Related: Are babies born to dance?

Turns out, there are good reasons to encourage kids to love music — although making them smarter isn’t one of them. Contrary to years of parental advice, listening to classical music does not increase children’s IQ, said Joanne Koenig, founder of L’Ecole Koenig Preschool & Music School in Paris and author of “The Musical Child.” But she said what music does is deeper — and helps kids develop skills that are more important than IQ.

“We now know that children love music over speaking. They will stay focused for a long time and they will be engaged,” she told TODAY Parents. Learning music is a tool for developing creativity and emotional regulation, in addition to being a simple pleasure.

Here are seven easy ways to incorporate music into your child’s life:

1. Start early

Koenig calls music with a caregiver “the first duet,” a popular form of communication that allows babies to synchronize clapping. Rhythm, melody, and repetition help children recognize patterns, which helps them understand what you’re saying.

Tapping a wooden spoon on the pan to the rhythm of questions and answers sets the child up to synchronize, observe, predict what will happen in the future, listen and wait their turn, Koenig said. There’s a lot to learn from that makeshift drum kit. Bonus: It’s fun.

2. Add music to the routine

The types of songs I sing in sheer terror are actually a great way to add music to a child’s life, said Rachel Lipson, founder and CEO of Blue Balloon Songwriting School.

Songs can help establish a routine for young children while making music an integral part of their lives, Lipson said. Try making a rhyme to a song they already know, and ask them to make up the lines. She suggests making your phone number into a song so they always remember it.

“Using music as a tool for children to explore and experience the world around them in a fun and playful way fosters both a sense of connection with you and a fun love of music,” said Lipson.

3. Make it playful

Brian Harris, a music psychiatrist and faculty member at New York University, calls music “a powerful tool for play and expression.” This is true for adults as well, but is especially important for children, who learn through play.

“For children, play is at the core of learning. When they enter the music space, they enter the play space and there’s a whole world of possibilities.”

4. Share experiences

Young children want music to be active—they love to dance, pounce, clap, and sing. If you have no musical training, you can sing and dance with them.

Koenig encourages parents to create a song for your child—take any tune and change the words to include your child’s name. They will love to hear something about themselves, and get the message that they can create music.

5. Give life a soundtrack

The best way to get kids to love music is to be around them. Play music around the house and in the car and attend singalongs or concerts when you can.

“Make a playlist for dinner, sing songs at bedtime, put on music at breakfast, take them to a park concert (or for older kids, snag them extra tickets to your favorite band’s show while they’re in town!),” says Lipson. “Being around music is like learning another language – and one of the best ways to learn is to immerse yourself in it.”

6. Be creative

Lipson’s music school focuses on the creative approach—making songs rather than memorizing them. She suggests applying that same creative thinking to apps that let kids make their own music, or try karaoke night and swap a few songs around. You can write songs on the go and freestyle effortlessly on what they see.

“When children have experiences around music that spark creativity and joy, the innate love of music most children are born with will last a lifetime,” Lipson said.

7. Find the right type of texts

Koenig suggests lessons that focus on creativity and allow children to socialize with peers. He doesn’t like the music lessons that most parents get him – sitting alone at the piano, memorizing classical music.

“There’s a lot of learning, memorizing stuff that’s being asked of kids in school, and they’re missing the idea that the real hot stuff right now is going to be creativity,” she said. “There’s going to be capital to be able to create a new idea, you know, maybe save the planet.”

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