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Expose your kids to classical music

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Help children appreciate fine arts

The pervasive nature of popular culture combined with the budget cutbacks in fine art programs in schools means that many kids grow up without any exposure to classical music.

Parents can make up for the void by exposing kids to classical music at home.


Classical music is more than just a genre or an antiquated craft. It can be a gateway to a rich cultural experience and a tool to promote an appreciation for fine arts. Parents play a crucial role in introducing their kids to classical music and encouraging them to celebrate an art that stands the test of time.

A disappearing art

Classical music provides a historical perspective on the arts, challenges the listener and expresses myriad of emotions and storylines. With all of these attributes, why isn’t classical music more mainstream? "There's a stigma attached to it," says Jana Cole, musician, composer and mother of two. "It’s too old. Video games seduce and monopolize kids’ interest and time. They condition kids to crave constant, intense, mindless stimulation, creating a need that classical music cannot meet." With educational programs dwindling, classical radio virtually non-existent and access to live performances often limited, the onus falls to parents to share this disappearing art with their kids.

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The farm concept

It is believed that classical music can have a positive impact on cognitive ability, mood and overall health. If those aren’t reasons enough to expose your child to classical music, consider the life lessons that can be taught through the process of learning to play music. "Teaching kids to play classical music teaches them discipline and the ‘farm’ concept — that you must invest time and effort to reap a reward," says Cole. "This contrasts with the typical instant gratification environment most children live in, in this country."

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You are uniquely qualified

Regardless of the condition of the fine arts culture in your area or school, you are uniquely qualified to shape your child’s exposure to classical music. Just as parents can pass along a love of reading or a passion for a particular sport, they can also spark an appreciation for the emotion of Debussy or the vibrancy of Bach. "I think that a parent should take the time to expose a daughter or son to the fine arts because in many ways, it gives them what I call a historical frame of reference for the world that they live in, what others used to call a well-rounded education," says Marshall Barnes, a respected scientist and multi-instrumentalist with an extensive background in music production and composition.

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Resources

Fortunately, even parents with zero musical background can effectively expose their children to classical music using some of the many resources readily available. Barnes provides the following tips for rookie parents:

  • Start playing classical music for your kids as early as possible — the younger the better.
  • Take notice when you visit restaurants or shops that play classical music and ask your child what he thinks of it. See if he can identify the instruments.
  • Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev is a way to learn to identify instruments.
  • Watch classical music performances with your kids on PBS. It helps to research the performance a bit so that you can answer questions and share information as you watch.
  • Focus on the more modern composers (as opposed to baroque or minuets) like Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, Aaron Copland and George Gershwin.

Read more about kids and music

Making music with your kids
Musical genius: How music makes your child smarter
Music lessons: Is your child ready?

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