5 Reasons Why Parents Don’t Make Music at Home

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A Baby plays with a tambourine and a xylophone

5 Common Misconceptions About Making Music at Home

There is a fair amount of doubt that goes into parenting. And, unfortunately, introducing and making music at home with your child seems to come with its own set of doubts and misconceptions as well. 

These misconceptions were addressed in a great study by Peter deVries (1), an educational researcher at Monash University in Australia. By having focus groups, he identified common misconceptions and fears that many parents have regarding music making at home. And it is exactly these fears and misconceptions that hold many parents back from introducing and making music with their children. 

By addressing these myths, I hope you will realize that you can introduce your child to music. You most likely already know the value of music education in your own home. But what you might not be aware of, is how crucial your involvement is in their musical education. 

So, today, I clarify these common misconceptions about introducing your child to music. Take a read below to see if these apply to you. 

Misconception #1: You, as a parent, lack enough musical knowledge.

This is, by far, the most common hesitation parents have when it come to making music at home. Many parents believe they do not know enough about music to engage with their little ones. But remember that you are informally making music with your child. Having fun, being silly, and even making mistakes is all part of the informal music making process. 

Formal music education, on the other hand, differs by having set outcomes and methods. Your child learns in a social, school-style setting with specific rules and instruments. That differs completely from what you do at home while making music. 

SOLUTION: Ask yourself the following questions: 

    • Can you sing along to music in the car or alone in the shower? 
    • Are you able to clap to your child’s favorite song? 
    • Do you dance or sway to music? 
    • Are you able to wave a scarf around to children’s music? 
    • Can you sing a simple nursery rhyme or recite it in a sing-song voice?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you have enough knowledge to make music with your child!

Your children, particularly those under the age of 2, are learning so much every day! And the good news is that there are so many ways you can facilitate music making with your child in the comfort of your own home.  

In particular, with younger babies, from newborns to 1 year olds, there are many ways to introduce them to music that doesn’t require specialized knowledge! 

There are also similar ideas for toddlers, as well. Because these children can handle more complicated tasks, like drawing or moving around, you can include more advanced activities. 

Just remember, there are so many activities that you can do with your child that encourages them musically. You probably are doing some of these anyway and just don’t realize it yet. 

Misconception #2: Lack of Time

Now, I hesitate to put this as a misconception because the truth is, as a parent, time is an incredibly valuable resource!

All parents, those who work and those who stay at home, find it difficult to balance all the needs of the family, home, and work. So how in the world are you supposed to “find time” to teach your child music??

Just remember, music making at home is not like formal music education classes. Rather, the time you spend making music with your child can be short and informal. You do not need to sit down for a half-hour or hour-long session with your child every day for music to be impactful!

Small activities done daily can be more beneficial than hour long activities done weekly.

SOLUTION: Find a time each day that you regularly spend with your child and then add music in a simple way.

This can include the following:

  • While cuddling them before bedtime or nap time, sing them a gentle lullaby.
  • Sing them a song during “regular” routines, like sitting down for a meal, bath time, cleaning up, brushing their teeth, changing their diapers, or putting on their pyjamas.
  • Recite a pre-meal chant.
  • For toddlers and older children, sing with your child. Pick a song you both know and sing together in the car, during bath time, or even as a pre-meal song.
  • While reading a book to them, say it in a sing-song voice.

You’ll notice that singing is one of the best ways to teach your child about music and it’s one that I mention often. Why is that?

That’s because with singing, unlike other musical activities, there is no set-up required, you can sing anywhere (if you want to) and anytime!

If you are unsure about what you could possibly sing to your child during these routines of a day, check out these 10 variations to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”. If you aren’t familiar with new songs, this is a great way to introduce them. You already know the melody, just add new words. 

The main point to remember here is that you don’t have to “make time” for simple music activities. Music, in particular singing, can be easily accessible and can be easily incorporated into many different daily activities.

 

Misconception #3: Belief that daycares or other educational settings provide a complete musical experience for children.

I think this might come as a shock to many parents. Even if your child’s preschool setting says they make music, your child typically won’t get all the benefits you think they will. So, let’s break this misconception down. 

First, making music needs to be supported at home. Think of it this way: If you want your child to play a certain sport, they will probably learn about it in lessons or in school. But, unless you also engage with them about that sport at home, they most likely won’t be that motivated to continue!

Second, many educational settings have opted out of specialized music teachers. Instead, they favor the “all-around” teacher – a teacher who is responsible for all subjects. Sadly, many teachers put into this situation feel that they lack the required knowledge to teach music in a formal setting and/or they lack to skills for planning and implementing music lessons for their groups.

Both of these factors (the lack of musical engagement at home and the insecurity of the teachers themselves to teach music) combine to create an inadequate musical experience for your children. 

SOLUTION: Build upon your child’s music education from their preschool setting at home. 

Here are some ways to round out their musical experiences at home:

  • Have your child sing their favourite song from their preschool at home. 
  • Learn one song that is sung often and use that song at home. 
  • Get your child to clap, dance, or even sing nonsense words to the song they know. 

This will ensure that your child has a more complete music education. By encouraging them at home, they will see that music is a part of your life, too – not just something done somewhere else. 

5 Myths about making music at home and how to fix these misconceptions!

 

Misconception #4: Reliance on commercially available products, such as CDs and DVDs, for music in the home

These days, any google search will quickly bring up articles about how ineffective educational CDs and DVDs are. In their heyday, these programs even touted making your child a genius. 

But, even though the theories have now been debunked, many still consistently rely on CDs and DVDs to provide “educational” value to their children. Research shows that you are your child’s first and most important teacher(2). (Lehrl & others, 2020, 6). So don’t put your own knowledge second to media. 

The good news? There is a way to use these types of media to your advantage.

SOLUTION: Engage with your child when they listen to a CD or watch a DVD.

There are ways to engage with your child to get some value out of these types of media. Here are some examples:

  • Ask them to sing you a song they learned in the program.
  • Get them to tell you what that song means. 
  • Learn the song and sing it with them, clap it with them, or dance as the song is played. 
  • Engage with your child based on the topic of that song (ask them if they know other songs about that topic and related questions). 

Because this is Modern Musical Parenting, I am very aware that it is next to impossible to raise children without media these days. That being said, there are some good materials out there. So, be diligent, do your research, and most importantly, engage with them about what they see and hear whenever possible.

 

Misconception #5: That music only holds extramusical (extrinsic) value for your child.

Essentially, there are two types of motivation that drive us: external motivation and internal motivation. Extrinsic (or external) motivation can be seen as doing something for a reward or even to avoid punishment. Intrinsic (or internal) motivation can be seen when we do something simply because it makes us happy or feel satisfied. 

And, quite often, the research that’s published and is then highlighted in the news focuses only on the extramusical, or extrinsic value that music has for your child. For example, comparing IQ scores or math and science test scores for those who learned music. 

But, what is not so clear are the intrinsic value that music holds for your child. These kinds of factors are much more difficult to measure in scientific studies. 

SOLUTION: Learn to watch for intrinsic motivations, as well. 

Here are some things you can keep an eye out for, just to see if your child spontaneously engages in music:

  • Does your child spontaneously start singing without you asking them to? 
  • Have you seen your child singing songs out loud and making any corresponding movements when no one is watching? 
  • Does your child like to sing before falling asleep or while riding in their car seat without any prompting or background music? 

If yes, then your child is showing you that music is something that they enjoy doing! In other words, these types of activities indicate that music holds internal value for your child. It shows that music makes them feel happy or that they can use music to comfort themselves. And, it shows that music has become an integral part of their young life. 

And, as almost all research will show, your child is more likely to continue doing an activity is they are internally motivated, rather than externally.

This is, at least for me, one of the most rewarding benefits music has to offer. More than anything else, I truly enjoy watching my child engage with music by themselves just because it’s something that makes them happy. 

So, what does this mean for me and making music at home?

First off, phew! If you reached this point, give yourself a pat on the back! There was a lot to unpack here, but look at it as the ‘Mythbusters’ of making music with your child at home. 

If you want a single takeaway from this article, more than anything else, remember this: 

You can make music with your child in so many ways – regardless of your own musical background!

What I hope is clear here, is that despite all our hesitations and misconceptions about music making at home, you can do this! Humans are musical creatures, and something about being around small children brings that musicality to the surface. 

In fact, these hesitations were the reason I came up with the 30 Day Music Making Challenge! You’ll find innovative and creative ways to make sure music is part of your child’s every day life.

And rest assured, that you’ll find explanations and links to helpful material along the way. It’s an 8-page, jam-packed mini eBook that will help you learn ways to make music at home for 30 days!

Ready to give it a go? Then sign up below!

Happy music making,
Liz

(1) Peter de Vries (2009) Music at home with the under fives: what is happening?, Early Child Development and Care179:4, 395-405. DOI: 10.1080/03004430802691914

(2) Lehrl, S., Evangelou, M. and Sammons, P. (2020) The home learning environment and its role in shaping children’s educational development. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 31(1), pp. 1-6.  

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