5 tips for a more musical home — and all its benefits


From playground songs to wedding dances, music remains an important part of our lives, regardless of age. Although not everyone self identifies as a musician, almost everyone loves music.

For young children, music has social-emotional and cognitive benefits. Active participation in music has been shown to help enable self-regulation and self-esteem. It can increase academic achievement by elongating attention spans and improving memory. New research continues to show how making music boosts brain function.

Singing and making music with children encourages them to find their natural singing voices and lays a foundation for future music study. The benefits go on and on. The good news is that you don’t have to be a classically trained musician to promote music learning with children. Here are five tips to turn your home into a musical environment:

1. Make music a part of your daily routine. There are songs that encourage cleaning up, washing hands and preparing for snack time. When you use songs to mark scheduled transitions, such as getting ready for a nap, you encourage routine and repetition — two things that help young children thrive. Tip: If you can’t recall specific songs, make up new words to familiar songs. The effect will be the same.

Group Of Children With Teacher Enjoying Drama Class Together
Encourage kids to have fun and dance at home. iStock.

2. Show how music is fun. Encourage children to sing and dance at home by modeling these behaviors. When children find joy in making music, they’re more inclined to participate and utilize music for self-regulation. Making music a part of playtime promotes creativity and imagination. Tip: Fold scarves into imaginary animals and use simple lullabies to rock them to sleep. After they’re “asleep,” wake them up and make new animals.

3. Create a music-making station. With just a few recycled objects, you can assemble an entire bin of musical instruments that are ready for action anytime. Gathering items that shake, rattle and roll helps kids make music easily throughout their day. Try recycling old coffee cans or paper-towel tubes into drums and shakers. Children even can decorate their new instruments. Tip: Make a drum using a large aluminum can and clear packing tape. Add tape across the top diagonally. The tighter the tape, the higher the tone of the drum.

4. Promote active listening. We often use prerecorded music as a background soundtrack throughout the day. Although this can help calm children’s moods and temperaments, active listening — or purposeful listening with intention — has many advantages as well. Listening for specific instruments, melodies or phrases in music can strengthen pre-language and language skills, especially syntax. Attuned listening can help increase attentiveness. Tip: Use classical music and pictures to introduce children to instrument families (woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings). Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” utilizes different solo instruments and a narrator to tell the tale. Car rides are a great time to practice active listening.

5. Enjoy musical activities together. There are plenty of musical activities taking place around the Valley. From outdoor concerts to music classes for families, Phoenix families can listen, participate, and watch live music events throughout the year. Children’s musical preferences don’t fully develop until later in life, so take advantage of the diversity offered in metro Phoenix. Tip: Check out the family-friendly events hosted by such local music organizations as the Phoenix Symphony or the spring McDowell Mountain Music Festival and, yes, the Musical Instrument Museum. Many local events feature hands-on musical opportunities for kids.

Trying out the trombone during an Instrument Petting Zoo at Symphony Hall. Photo courtesy of The Phoenix Symphony.
Trying out the trombone during an Instrument Petting Zoo at Symphony Hall. Photo courtesy of The Phoenix Symphony.

Upcoming music events for families

Saturday, Nov. 5: Herberger Festival of the Arts. Live music, dance and theater with hands-on activities. 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe, Phoenix. Free. 602-254-7399 or herbergertheater.org.

Sunday, Nov. 6: “The Animal Kingdom.” The Phoenix Symphony and guest conductor Robert Franz offer this family concert featuring music from Disney’s “The Lion King,” Prokofiev’s thrilling “Peter and the Wolf” and other animal-themed classical-musical selections. Doors open an hour early for free family-friendly pre-concert fun, including an instrument “petting zoo” and station activities throughout the lobby at the Orpheum Theatre. 2 p.m. 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix. $11-$20. 602-495-1999 or phoenixsymphony.org.

Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 3-4: Experience Scandinavian. Explore music and culture of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Enjoy musical performances, traditional dances, a regionally inspired menu in the café, hands-on crafts, and much more. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. $20; $15 ages 13-19; $10 ages 4-12; free admission for age 3 and younger. Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix. 480-478-6000 or mim.org.

Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 17-18: Hear Them Ring! Celebrate instruments that ring. Hear performances featuring handbells, gongs and more. Try your hand at gamelan and learn how these instruments make their unique sounds. The weekend includes face painting and more.9 a.m. to 5 p.m. $20; $15 ages 13-19; $10 ages 4-12; free admission for age 3 and younger. Musical Instrument Museum, 4725 E. Mayo Blvd., Phoenix. 480-478-6000 or mim.org.