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November has been all about Kid Music at Leap Little Frog. For this last November installment, guest blogger Matt Heaton inspires readers to dig in and make their own music. It doesn’t matter how it sounds. It only matters that it’s fun!

Got the music bug? Love music? Want your kids to play it and adore it? Even if you don’t play an instrument yourself, you can play an important role as music teacher. You don’t have to be a pro to make your own music with your kids!

Remember: your kid loves how you sound! There is no, and I mean NO pressure. Your child is your biggest fan. He/she doesn’t care if you’re in tune or in time. Your kid will love seeing you have fun and share an activity. It’s fun and funny if it isn’t perfect. Roll up your sleeves and try a few of these options:

The best. Kids love percussion instruments. And you don’t even need real instruments. Listening to a peppy song on the radio and clap along. When everybody’s getting antsy, march around the house, stomping ONE two three four ONE two three four. If you’re feeling crafty, glue paper plates together and fill ’em with beans (a classic). If you want to branch out, toy stores and resale shops (like the Little Fox children’s resale shop at the Arlington Library branch) usually have shakers, drums, and other stuff you can hit.

Ukuleles are great for small hands. And to be honest, if you want to learn an instrument, get yourself a uke and you’ll be able to learn a few chords in no time. You can start with a “toy” uke, just something which looks vaguely guitar-like. No need to get a fancy one. (In fact, don’t get a good one! Then you won’t worry if your kid gets percussive inspiration and bangs it against the wall.) Or make your own. I’ve seen kids come to concerts with tennis rackets and cardboard cutout guitars and positively rock out.

Kazoos are king. Easy to play, hard to swallow, not very loud. If your child can’t make sound, try to get him/her to say “oooooo” and then put the kazoo in his/her mouth. You’re supposed to put the big end in, but either one will work. Harmonicas are good for hours of fun. Tin whistles and recorders are easy to make noise on, but caveat emptor: they get shrill! And don’t let your kid run around with a tin whistle in his mouth, just in case s/he trips.

We keep the music basket on the floor where our son can grab something whenever the spirit moves him. Sometimes we have a family jam, and he’ll go through every instrument he owns. Your main goal with young kids is to make music a fun activity. This isn’t lessons on how to play an instrument, that can come later. This is laying the groundwork for creating your own music as a fun activity. Make it as easy and fun and possible.

What instruments or music games help your family rock out the most?

300-9295Matt Heaton has impressive music degrees and has performed Irish traditional music around the globe. But the 5-and-under set has been his most honest, open, and challenging audience yet. Matt is constantly inventing ways to connect with and learn from young people and their parents. His two albums for children (Happy You Made It and Toddlerbilly Riot) are humorous, educational, and well-produced. And they show how “kid” music can also just be GOOD music.

Matt’s also working on a collection of creative songs about money and economics, to engage kids and their parents in simple discussions about finances. He’ll launch it in February at a big Coolidge Corner show: Sunday Feb 26th at 10am… tell all your Boston pals!!!!!


Leap, Little Frog

a musician's musings on nesting, being creative, traveling, and parenting