Music Classes for Young Children: Should you join one?

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A baby crawl around during a music class while the mother looks on

Music Classes for Young Children: Here’s What You Need to Know!

Welcome reader, to a rather hot-topic (and maybe opinionated?) issue on music education for young children: Should I enroll my child in a music class?

And just to clarify, what I talk about below is specialized music classes. These classes focus on music and are geared towards children ranging from birth to about 5 years of age. I do not talk about enrolling your child in music lessons (one-on-one instruction for a specific instrument). That is a completely different topic for another day.

Now, for some, this topic seems to result in debates on the educational value, the cost, and benefits for the child in such classes. In fact, in his research, Peter de Vriesmentions this very point. He state that several parents held the belief that specialized music programs (like, Kindermusik or Musikgarten) were either too competitive or just “not fun.” And I’ve heard first hand similar comments!

That’s exactly what I want to talk about today. Below, you’ll find the most common concerns or hesitations that many parents have before enrolling their children in music classes. And, unfortunately, these sometimes hold parents back from enjoying these classes. 

So, what are the most common worries about enrolling your child in music classes?

Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions  when it comes to your child’s early music education – and this one fits perfectly into that list. In fact, here are the most common concerns I’ve read or heard when it comes to enrolling your young child in music classes:

  1. These types of courses are just plain boring, or “no fun!”.
  2. Music courses for young children are too competitive.
  3. These types of courses are too expensive.
  4. If you join a music class, you also have to buy the accompanying instruments and course material!
  5. You can do all these activities at home.
  6. Young children don’t need such structured, “classroom”-style learning.

Now, before we go any further, I just want to clarify one important point: I did attend a class (that was based upon the methods of Musikgarten) with my oldest child for 6 months. Honestly, I can see why some parents might think these things, but there is so much more underneath the surface of these courses! That’s exactly what I want to address today.

Below, you’ll find that I’ve broken down each hesitation or worry and provided you with easy solutions or ways to think about each concern. Because, to be quite honest, enrolling your child in a weekly music class has so many additional benefits outside of learning a few new songs!

Hesitation #1: Aren’t children’s music classes really boring?

With my own experience of a Musikgarten course, this was absolutely not the case. The environment was friendly, inquisitive, and more than anything, it was a social event for the children. In fact, the young children (all roughly 1-year-old), were so engaged by the music that they generally sat on their mother’s laps and were attentive.

You can expect at that age, that your child will most likekly not interact with the other children or the teacher! That’s completely normal. Some children were fussy or cried during the time together, but the mothers were always welcome to step outside for a bit to help their little ones clam down.

And, the simple truth is, your child might not like the environment. Keep an eye out of their reactions and if you feel they are too overwhelmed or not enjoying themselves, then music class might not be the best option for them.

As is appropriate for such an age group, the activities changed quite quickly. There were rhythm sticks, singing with words, singing on neutral syllables, lots of movement activities, and even focused listening. I originally thought that an hour time slot would be long, but the time always passed quickly.

Perhaps, as a parent, you might feel “bored” or “too embarrassed” to join in, but you have to remember that these kinds of courses are child-focused. You can also learn a lot, but these songs and activities are generally new to your child!

Hesitation #2: Are music classes for children too competitive?

Music can become competitive later in a child’s life with recitals, competitions, and group performances with band, orchestra, or choir. But I will emphasize that at a young age, particularly those of preschool age, music should not be competitive. It should be a creative endeavor that supports your child’s development.

At such a young age, intrinsic motivation is crucial! You can learn how to spot your child’s intrinsic motivation with music here. So, if a course enforces competitive behavior, such a singing the “right” words or constantly correcting your child when they sing slightly off-key, it might take the enjoyment out of music for your child before they really get into it.

SOLUTION: If you find yourself in a course that has become competitive, then please discuss this with your teacher. Ultimately, if you don’t feel comfortable in such an environment, change programs or teachers. You and your child should have fun in these classes!

Child Music Classes_ What you need to know

Hesitation #3: Why are children’s music classes so expensive?

Okay, as a past freelance (“gig”) musician, I always disliked being told my rates were too high. But, in a society where arts programs are being thought of as “dispensable”, it’s no surprise! But, please keep these points in when you see the cost:

  • Consider this as an investment in your child’s education! Now, learning music won’t automatically make your child a genius. But, it will provide them with so many benefits that have been scientifically proven.
  • You are also simultaneously investing in yourself. You are giving yourself the opportunity to socialize with other parents. Not only that, but you’ll also learn about musical activities, and to develop a deeper bond with your own child.
  • More than likely, you are supporting a freelance musician who has already spent tons on his or her own music education! For many music programs, teachers have to spend lots of extra money purchasing course materials and instruments for the students. This is all in addition to paying for the instructional information.
  • There are so many additional costs that the teacher has to cover themselves. Similar to the point above, the teacher also has to cover other costs. For example, this can include paying for a space to teach the classes, buying the instruments and materials to use in the classes, and even paying to market the classes so that parents are aware of the opportunity. Your payments help offset these costs.
  • For every hour you spent in class, the teacher probably spends many additional hours doing the behind-the-scenes work. It might seem like a steep price to pay for a single hour per week. But remember that the teacher also has to arrive early for set-up and breakdown of the classroom (especially in shared spaces), plus preparing and rehearsing the music and materials for each individual class.

In short, while the costs might seem expensive to you, they are justified in the end. You are paying a specialized teacher to work with your child and introduce them to a life-long skill – it’s always worth it!

So, what can you do even if you can’t afford these types of well-established music programs?

SOLUTION: If these well-known music programs just don’t fit into your budget, look for other similar courses. You will almost certainly find a good music class offered at community centers, churches, or libraries. This option might take a bit more time searching, but you are almost certainly going to find something!

There are tons of ways that you can look for music courses specifically designed for your child’s age group. Consider asking friends, neighbors, or family that live in your area for recommendations. And, if all else fails, you’ll almost certainly find something by searching online.  

Just remember – music classes offered through your community centers or churches can be equally engaging for your child. Even local libraries often offer story time sessions for younger children that make use of song. The main point is to expose them to music outside the home – and that’s what these types of courses can offer.

Hesitation #4: Do you also have to buy the accompanying instruments and course material?

From my own personal experience, I have never purchased additional class materials or books. Sure, these items are helpful to learn tons of additional songs or have the same musical instruments at home. But these purchases were always (and should be) optional.

In fact, many of the instruments can either be made for fun at home or substituted with your own things. For example, instead of the rhythm sticks, just use two wooden spoon handles. And for the musical scarves, use one of your own lightweight, see-through scarves.

SOLUTION: There are tons of options (most for free) for using similar items you might already have so that you don’t have to purchase the musical items and books – unless you absolutely want to.

Hesitation #5: Can’t you also just do all these musical activities at home?

YES! That’s most likely what the teachers want you to take away from the course anyway! These kinds of activities are great to do at home, too.

This should absolutely NOT take away from the fact that you attend such courses in the first place. And this doesn’t mean that you have to take an entire hour each day to repeat the course. But what you should take away are all the ways that you can make and encourage music in your own home.

Think of it this way: If you attend a baby massage class or a birthing course, the information you learn there is to be used outside the class. You’ll want to use the massage techniques or the breathing techniques from the birthing course in real life. And a music class is no different!

You’ve probably read this elsewhere, but just 10 minutes (heck, even 5!) of music making or singing to your child each day is hands-down better than a single hour each week.

SOLUTION: You should absolutely use the musical activities you learn in the music class at home! I encourage you to think of these music classes as the foundation for your child’s music education. Repeat the songs and activities when you find the time in your own home routine. This will build a solid foundation in music for your child!

Hesitation #6: Young children don’t need such structured, “classroom”-style learning.

Now, there is certainly some debate with this topic. But my opinion is this:

For the most part, the word “class” to represent these group settings is a bit of a misnomer. You are always in group settings and yes, you are learning new topics. But, the strict “classroom” style settings almost never applies to these types of classes for young children.

I’m sure most teachers can confirm this, but there is always a little leeway in the course structure! If a teacher finds that the children absolutely LOVE a certain song, he or she will probably spend a bit more time with it. Or, if they find that the kids really don’t like a certain activity, then no one is forced to participate.

So, while these are labeled as “classes”, think of it a bit more as a creative musical setting, in which there is a constant flux of information between the parents, children, and teachers. 

SOLUTION: Similar to the above hesitations, if you find yourself in a course that is too regimented or strict, then change teachers. These classes should always create a fun, learning environment. 

So, what can you take away from this?

As I mentioned above, these classes generally center around the children. But, as a parent, these classes give you the opportunity to learn, too! You’ll learn new songs to sing, what kinds of musical activities your child likes best, how to continue making music in your own home, and meet other moms and dads with similar interests. Best of all, you are supporting your child’s own musical, social, and physical development.

And, my biggest piece of advice if you are on the fence and signing your child up for a music class?

Try out a course for yourself to see if the environment is a fit for you.

Many programs will offer a free session or two, just to see if it is something your child and you would enjoy. Take advantage of these offers!

Tell me, what keeps you from signing up for a music class? Let me know if the comments below.

Happy music making!

Liz

 

1. Peter de Vries (2009) Music at home with the under fives: what is happening?, Early Child Development and Care,179:4, 395-405, DOI: 10.1080/03004430802691914

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