Encouraging Music Appreciation in Children
In addition to the pure joy (hello, impromptu dance parties!) listening to and playing music provides, there are a lot of related benefits it offers regarding brain development and overall health and well-being, including: improved math, language, listening and fine motor skills, higher self-esteem, natural stress relief, and increased creativity. But fear not, you don’t have to stick a violin into your baby’s pudgy hands to tap into these benefits; there are a lot of easy and natural ways to foster a love of and interest in music from a young age.
The easiest thing to do is to simply play music in the house. With services like Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music, it is fun for children to discover new genres by browsing. It puts them in control and they can discover on their own what they respond to. A lot of kids love reggae and it’s not difficult to understand why. With siblings or multiple children, it is fun to let them take turns picking songs. This can turn into a stop dancing session or another game like hot potato. Over time, you can make it a habit to have music playing during such activities as arts and crafts, dinner, bath time and bedtime. This is particularly helpful because the song selection sets the mood appropriate to what is going on and time of day. You can take favorite soundtracks on the road by having the kids make playlists of their favorite songs.
In addition to creating a mood, music also gives children an outlet to express themselves and their feelings. It is really cool as your child grows older and starts to discover music to see what they love and react to.
Ready to Play
If you are keen to have your child learn how to play an instrument at some point, make a variety of different ones available to them. This doesn’t require a significant investment, you can make drums and bongos from pots and pans, or plastic tubs. Children’s xylophones, flutes, kazoos, harmonicas and keyboards are also inexpensive and provide a great foray into learning the mechanics of each instrument. It is about the action and response and discovering that by playing certain notes in a certain way they form a melody. If your child likes music but isn’t sure what instrument she would enjoy learning, there are music schools in Amsterdam that offer ‘proeflesjes’ where children can experiment with a variety of instruments over the course of the lesson period. For those who like using their voice as an instrument, there are schools like Babette Labeij Music Academy that offer singing lessons.
Perhaps your child has expressed an interest in learning a particular instrument. Of course, having natural talent is a wonderful thing to have when learning how to play an instrument but passion and dedication are just as important if not more. Because all the talent in the world can’t overcome a lack of desire to practice or learn. Whereas passion and dedication can go a long way in compensating for little natural ability. One of our regular charges is a little boy called William and he has started to show a real interest in learning how to play piano, first at a friend’s house and then on a small keyboard at home. While his parents searched to find an available instructor (tip: if you are a qualified piano teacher, there is a high need for this service in Amsterdam!), he found several good tutorials on YouTube to learn from in the meantime. He learned several songs this way and was motivated to improve and continue to build his repertoire.
Dutch Music Scene
The Netherlands is a great place to encourage a love of and interest in music as it is an important and valued part of the culture, especially as it relates to classical music. A great thing to do in Amsterdam is to visit the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, a wonderful venue to listen to contemporary classical music. One of my favorite things to do with kids are the free Wednesday concerts at the Concertgebouw. At 12:30 each week, you can watch the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra practice for a half hour, the perfect amount of time for younger people with shorter attention spans. And on May 4 and May 5, the Liberation Day festivities end with the Amstel Concert. Attended by the King and Queen, the concert takes place atop a floating stage set against the backdrop of the Royal Carré Theater. There are also regular classical music concerts at churches around the city. While the jury is out on the ‘Mozart effect’ on test scores, it can never hurt to introduce classical—or any style—music at a young age.