Often, parents don’t dare to take their children to concerts… and yet their children love music, classical or not! Beyond the musical shows for them, here are eight ideas to introduce children to classical music.
In the background, to start
For babies, baroque music is often recommended, whose harmonies are easily understandable and whose works present a less complex mix of emotions.
Generally speaking, it is best to choose works for solo instrument or chamber music: the variety of sounds of a symphony orchestra or the combination of an opera voice with an orchestra brings too much information all at once, at least for a very small child.
For all children, including babies, this is the logical next step… as soon as they like a piece of music, they dance! If you like to dance (or are not afraid of the ridiculous), dance with them, imitate a small minuet like Louix XIV, a polka… but a few energetic nods can also do the trick. Combining body expression and music will allow them to acquire the beginnings of a sense of rhythm.
Once the whole family knows them by heart… add a visual element. Take everyone to see the ballet for real! Usually, the combination of costumes, sets and dances, with the added bonus of recognizable music, makes a great effect read this story of a first time at the ballet, edifying.
You know children’s songs… but we don’t have to limit ourselves to “Ah les cro-cro-cro”! Of course, funny and rhythmic music is easier to sing – you can find plenty of them at Rossini’s.
Telling a story
The most difficult thing (even for adults who are new to music) is the supposed lack of narration in music.
To learn to imagine while listening, choose works such as Peter and the Wolf or Carnival of the Animals, which associate a character with an instrument and a leitmotif, but also “narrated” ballets and operas.
Attend a concert
It is not necessary to choose a concert suitable for children. Of course, we do not advise you to start with a Shostakovich symphony – but, in general, you should know that all our concerts are accessible from the age of 3 – it is up to you to choose the one you think is the nicest!
A few advices :
- Plan that, the first time, you have to leave at intermission or even during the concert – it doesn’t matter!
- Choose seats near the exit or in a dressing room so that you can escape quickly if necessary. In a dressing room, a child can even stand up discreetly and take a few steps if he or she has trouble staying still.
- Check the length and timing of the concert before booking – if the first part is 30 or 40 minutes long, it should be accessible even to a child under the age of 5.
- To get started, choose a concert in the morning (like the Sunday Morning Concerts, which last only one hour), or in the early afternoon.
- If you’re a player and know the work that will be performed, offer your child this game: play a 15-second excerpt and promise them a prize if they can locate the piece during the concert (for example, by shaking hands or touching your elbow when they hear it on stage).
Make them discover an instrument
No need to invest or go far to touch an instrument… we have THE answer: the ukulele! It’s magical, there are only four strings, and after a few days, a 3-4 year old child will be able to produce sounds that are quite pleasant to the ear. It’s probably the most rewarding of all instruments, while being among the least expensive.
Of course, if you have access to a piano, it’s a great and very visual instrument to understand how a sound is produced! Another idea: a xylophone. But children often prefer the ukulele, which resembles the guitar of grown-ups.
Finally, for real orchestral instruments, note the “How it works” workshop (next season at the TCE, during the Sunday Morning Concerts), given by real instrument makers who will come and shell a piano or a harp and explain to children how each instrument produces sound.
Discuss and share emotions
Above all, music transmits emotions… But you have to know how to spot them!
Here are a few ideas for simple questions to ask when you listen to a piece of music together:
- Does this music make you sad or happy?
- For me, I think this music would go well with a rainy day, and for you, it makes you think about the weather?
- It sounds like two characters talking! (when you have a “dialogue” between two instruments or groups of instruments). The first one seems to be complaining, doesn’t he? What does the second one say?
Using music in your games
From 5-6 years old, if you are having a small costume party, create a play or a little home-made movie, take the opportunity to evoke the soundtrack!