Teaching Kids About the World Through Music

Kids love music. You may have laughed as your baby happily bopped to the beat before he could walk, or perhaps you’ve noticed your toddler is drawn to playing the drums — or any object resembling drums — like a moth to a flame. As a piano teacher and a music educator, I could go on and on and on about all the benefits that musical learning provides, and the way it enhances ALL other forms of learning, but there’s also another really cool thing about music…

It’s a way for your child to access the world.

We haven’t traveled outside of the country yet with our littles (with the exception of when we brought our son home from Congo after adopting him), but our kids can sing “Old McDonald Had a Farm” in French, love dancing to the tunes of Staff Benda Bilili (a Congolese band) and enjoy sipping smoothies at the co-op whenever one of our favorite local musicians — from Haiti — takes the stage to sing in a combo of English and Creole.

All of these experiences have been brought to them right here in their own neighborhood. Through music, they have learned about other cultures, languages and rhythms.

What are some ways you can access rich cultural experiences in your home and neighborhood?  Here are some great ideas for teaching kids about the world through music!

Teaching Kids About the World Through Music | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Play music from diverse artists from all over the world. Not sure where to start? Check out Putumayo World Music for catchy collections in all sorts of styles. If you know someone who has lived abroad or is from somewhere else, ask them what singers and bands are popular from their country of origin and purchase them for your family’s music library. Music in other languages is important, too! (I’m always looking for an excuse to bust out my old Ricky Martin CDs….)

Teaching Kids About the World Through Music | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Our daughter, age 3, with her Music Together teacher

Sign up for a Music Lingua or Music Together class. Music Together classes emphasize music from many different genres, including world music. During the several semesters of class we attended, we had fun singing and playing rhythm instruments to tunes from Ireland, Mexico, the Caribbean, Germany and Canada. In a Music Lingua class, the emphasis is on learning a second language through music, movement and storytelling. We attended one semester of the French program, and while my kids didn’t come out speaking fluent French, they gained exposure while learning some new French songs and phrases.

Attend musical events and festivals that will expose your child to other cultures. One of my favorite childhood memories is attending the Greek Festival in downtown Salt Lake City with one of my Greek friends and her Orthodox family. At the end of the day, we stayed in the parking lot, formed a circle, and participated in traditional Greek dancing. Many larger cities have similar festivals for various ethnicities – be it Italian, Irish or Spanish.

Check your local library to see if they host any diverse artists. Though we live in a small town, we’ve been able to attend a Venezuelan musical puppet show and a fiddle concert featuring Irish folk songs at our library. Also, library events are free. Need I say more?

When your child listens to, participates in and explores music from other countries and in other languages, you are teaching him to distinguish between sounds, enhancing his ability to learn a second language and teaching social values. By exposing your child to the world in a positive and fun way, you are helping him gain understanding and acceptance of other cultures: you are teaching inclusion rather than discrimination.

Who knew that Ricky Martin CD would be so educational?

Teaching Kids About the World Through Music | Multicultural Kid Blogs

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Carly Seifert

Carly Seifert is a piano teacher and mother of two kiddos (ages 5 and 1). She blogs at Africa to America (http://www.africatoamerica.org/), where she writes about adoption, multiculturalism, serving with her kids and anything else that strikes her fancy.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Kids About the World Through Music”

  1. If you’re looking for a great world-music reltated kids book, I recommend “Nina and the Magical Carnival” which is about the spirit of the Brasilian carnival. We played lots of samba music and watched videos of the carnival with my girl and boy when we read it and they learnt a lot because of the story.

  2. Hi, found this post through Google + and very excited to see someone doing this. I run a playgroup in Australia and we do lots of multicultural songs which the parents and children just love. We are thinking of doing a drumming program too. I love how much children learn from music, singing and playing musical instruments and have just been writing about it today on my blog.
    There is a good page of multicultural lyrics here http://kidsongs.synthasite.com/multicultural-songs.php

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