What instruments do your kids enjoy?
March Madness kicks off this week, but we're all about Music Madness, especially since it's Music in Our Schools Month! Everyone knows about the importance of music in kids' lives: Music helps aid brain development, teaches patience and discipline, fosters creativity and expression, and, most importantly, makes for hours of fun. It's not hard to get babies to rock: numerous studies show they were born to do it. But short of listening to the awesome playlists here, what can you do to inspire your wee one to make some noise? Here are a few things that have worked for me: 1. Make Room to Rock Clear a space somewhere you can leave instruments and other music-making accoutrements out, all the time, so that the baby can access them whenever the spirit moves them (provided the kid can crawl). We knew with two kids we were never going to use our living room for fancy cocktail parties or adult activities like talking to each other, so it's a music room. We spend tons of time in there, listening to music, dancing like maniacs, and making our own brain-expanding-but-headache-inducing sound. You don't need a lot of space, just a lot of tolerance for things strewn about on the floor and an ability to step over a pair of cymbals in your sleep. 2. Use Instruments That Can Get Hurt There are so many great pint-size instruments out there and my kids love them, but they are just as into banging on a couple coffee cans with chopsticks. You can buy your kids all sorts of cool play instruments, or get cheaper versions of the real deal, or get crafty and make all of them from milk boxes, paper towel rolls, and beans. Plastic recorders, steel harmonicas, and all stripes of percussion shakers are faves. The only thing my husband wanted on our baby registry was an inexpensive nylon-string acoustic guitar-and along with the diaper service, it's our most used baby item. (BTW, we didn't put it on the registry, but I think you should!) As a former band guy, he has a lot of nice guitars and keyboards that he keeps to himself, but this guitar, the piano and one of the side drums from his kit are all up for grabs. And once they see them, the kids love playing the real deal. 3. Make Your Own Music Class I was so gung-ho to get our first kid grooving that I jumped the gun on music classes, enrolling her at around seven months. I'm sure folks would say it was good for her, but honestly she spent every class trying to eat other kids' shoes or crying. Since then, in her short two-year existence, we've done four different types of classes (a great benefit to L.A.: lots of options for kids' music classes), but you know which one she liked best? The one I liked best, where the teacher taught them Yellow Submarine and The Smiths songs. So find a class that's fun for you and odds are the kid will like it, too. Now she's almost three and a non-stop singing and dancing machine. Yesterday I caught her wearing a diaper on her head, strumming the big guitar and making up songs. I called her father and whispered: "She's starting in on the singer-songwriter thing but it looks like it's going more Andy Kaufman than Aimee Mann." With baby #2, I am too busy and too tired to take her to any music class. (Sorry, baby, yet another example of you getting shafted.) But her part-time babysitter, who looks after her and another baby around the same age three days a week, calls their time together "baby band camp" because the three of them just hang out in our music room, banging on drums and shaking maracas for hours on end. She seems just as inclined as her big sister to lay down a beat and get busy with it, so am I short-changing her or allowing her to be self-taught? The only time there are tears in Baby Band Camp, BTW, is when one of them busts out the triangle-they will fight for it. I don't understand the allure; maybe it's more about the cold metal on teething gums or maybe we've got the next John Deacons on our hands.