Help your child build a mental playlist.

How many songs do you have tucked in your head? From the tapes and CDs (or in my case, 8 tracks and records!) you listened to as a child, to the songs played on the family stereo while your mom or dad worked around the house, to the songs that played on the radio while your parents drove the family from place to place, to the hymns played at church. All of these musical gems found a place in your own mental playlist and while they may have lain dormant for years, they remain there ready for recall when you least expect it.  Many songs will be tied to a memory and I find that to be highly fascinating…does the memory strengthen the tendency to remember the song or does the song strengthen the actual memory? (I need to check the research on that one!)

Why I wanted to mention mental playlists in the first place, is I have found an interesting trend in the past decade and that is children with a more and more limited mental playlist.  I wonder if children perhaps do not have the opportunity to listen to the music their parents are listening to in this age of personal devices, headphones, and media playlists. Or if they do hear their parents’ music, how diverse is that of their parents? To be clear, this is definitely not a finger pointing blog. My own children loved their own devices growing up, but they were exposed to a wide variety of music due to the nature of my career and interests (sheer luck). I think that had I been less focused on music, my children would have had a much more limited menu of music from which to grow their mental playlists.

This week, while choosing Christmas and holiday repertoire with students, I was reminded once again the importance of exposing children to the wonderful musical variety that exists out there.  Most students recognized Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls, and Rudolph while a few knew Silent Night and Away in a Manger. For many, this was the extent of their mental Christmas repertoire . This is shocking to me only because almost all of my students celebrate Christmas and I have a large studio. You would think they would know or at least recognize other popular and widely used songs. The argument could be that if students aren’t religious they wouldn’t know traditional Christmas hymns, but I would counter that there are hundreds of secular pieces out there too. Could it be that they just don’t hear them enough to retain them? Is it because children are exposed to a limited stream of music that they have chosen or that their parents have chosen for them?

Do you download albums for your child to listen to? I know I wouldn’t think to download a Christmas album for my children, but perhaps that would be a worthwhile addition to their devices. It may be something to consider, and not just Christmas but a wide variety of other types of music too. Or better yet, download it for yourself and play it out loud and listen to it together so you can sing, dance and enjoy it with your child. The more music your child listens to, engages with and enjoys (especially with you), the more your child will appreciate learning to play those songs that feel familiar or at least contain familiar attributes. It helps them build a library of reference to pull from as they encounter new rhythms, tonal patterns and harmonies. Listening to music is a key part of your child’s musical development! What awesome music will you share with your child today?

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