Even before children can speak or comprehend words, they respond to music. We tap on the table, they tap back. We shake the maracas, bang away on pots and pans, and make a joyful noise. They squeal with excitement.
It’s obvious that music has a special effect on a child’s growing brain. It makes sense then that listening to and making music is an ideal way for children to explore their world.
Music was probably the first art form of man. Before we were painting on caves, we were most likely drumming and singing. Music adds feeling to our stories, connects us to those around us in harmony, and fixes the world in our memories. Through music we are expressing both our universal, common humanity and what makes us unique. There is not a single culture on earth that does not make music.
When we listen to, play, or sing the music of another culture, we are speaking that culture’s common language. Even more than that, we are immersing ourselves in that culture, involving ourselves in the culture, and even becoming a part of that culture. This makes music an authentic way to experience another perspective.
Here are some tips to help your children develop a musical “language:”
- Choose any place in the world and listen to some of its traditional music.
- Find images of traditional instruments and dancers and paste them in the right place on a world map.
- Develop your child’s music vocabulary by helping him to describe the music. What is the mood, tempo, and pitch of the music?
- Learn children’s songs from other countries. This is also a great way to learn a new language.
- For older children, you can find out about different scales used in the music of Non-Western cultures.
- Children of all ages can move or drum along with the music.
- Learn a traditional dance to go with the music.
- Try to make your own instruments.
- Ask friends and classmates about some of the music they listen to at home and share music from your own culture with your friends. This not only opens your child up to other cultures, but it also creates an emotional connection between people.
When children listen to music from around the globe, they learn about different cultures and also learn that we are all the same in the most important ways. Music reaches across political borders to connect us. We all love, celebrate, and mourn. And we all search for ways to express those feelings and share them with each other. We are all unique squares on the world tapestry but we share a common thread.
When making music with my own young children, the joy that comes from music is even more important than the brain boost. Ultimately, we listen to music because it is beautiful, because it enriches our lives, and because it brings us closer to truth.
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