The Best Music for Kids? It’s Not What You Think…

What is the best music for a child’s growing brain? That may seem like an easy question but the answer is actually quite complicated. In short, the best music for kids is exposure to lots of DIFFERENT music. 

The brain-changing benefits of exposing your children to LOTS of different music

There are a lot of debates and opinions out there that involve particular types of music and kids’ learning. 

And while many are just old wives’ tales, there’s plenty of merit to the idea that music can contribute in truly incredible brain-changing ways to early childhood development.

I would even argue that active musical listening is as important to the brain during a child’s early years as language. Active musical listening works just like language during the brain’s development. 

We know that exposing a child’s ear to as many words as possible in their native tongue (or tongues!) during their first years changes the way their brains process language

(It’s not just words, by the way. The first steps in language acquisition are actually learning melody, which babies begin to learn even before birth — seriously!!) 

But it’s just the same for music. The way children interact with music during their first years changes the way their brains process music forever afterwards.

Here’s how it works. 

During these early linguistic and musical interactions, our amazingly clever young brains grow synaptic connections that they’ll use for the rest of their lives!

bright dots and lines representing the synapses connecting in young brains

The more these connections are used, the stronger they become. If they’re not used, they atrophy. And once they’re gone, they’re gone. The brain will need to find a completely different pathway to complete the same task.

Basically, you want lots of strong musical pathways established early on so your children’s brains will have them for their lifetime.

So the best music for kids is lots of DIFFERENT music

Exposing a child to music is good. 

But exposing a child to an enormous variety of music — from their culture, from around the world, in a host of time signatures, musical keys and tonalities, with varying feel, instrumentation, dynamics, layers and voices — is better. 

MUCH better. 

(PSST! We keep this in mind when we recommend and play music within our membership for Children’s Online Music Sessions and our Music Making Made Easy – PD for Early Years Educators).

Let’s make a conscious effort to expose children to new sounds!

Want to expose your children to more varied music? Ask yourself:

  • What type of music do you hear most often? 
  • What do you hear when you put on the radio in your car? 
  • What are your children listening to? 
  • How many of the sounds that you’re hearing actually are instruments and how many of them are electronically generated sounds?
  • Are the voices natural sounding or have they been tampered with too?

Not sure where to start? 

We live in a world where accessibility to recorded music is easier than ever before. Spotify, YouTube, iTunes and Google Music are available at our fingertips, not to mention any physical collection you may own. 

I’m still hanging on to my CDs and actively growing my vinyl collection (thank you op shops!). Does anyone still have a tape deck? Am I showing my age? 

Let’s get back to Spotify…

These digital music libraries give us HUGE access to an incredible variety of different music genres.  

Seek out genres you wouldn’t normally listen to. Below is a list of musical genres we recommend you give a go with your kids (and I’m sure a million-gazillion sub-genres exist within all these too!): 

a list of the best musical genres for kids, including Classical, Blues, Funk, Metal, Folk, Rock, Jazz, Country, Soul, Reggae Pop Electronica and dance

Once your child is no longer a baby, they can play an important role in directing their own musical listening and appreciation. Ask them what they like. Ask them what they can hear within the music. Help them identify new instruments!

It’s all about interacting with the music. 

Here are my top pics for GREAT music exposure for children

It’s about going so, SO much more beyond the commercially available kids music (I have strong feelings about this!).

Play real music to your kids. Start here… 

  • Hendrix
  • The Beatles
  • Mozart (who incidentally sold the most CDs of any artist in 2016, WOO, go Wolfgang!)
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Bela Fleck
  • Matt Corby
  • Van Halen
  • Debussy
  • Bach
  • The Eagles
  • Bill Evans (jazz pianist)
  • Nat King Cole
  • ELO
  • David Bowie
  • Queen
  • Daft Punk
  • Bob Marley
  • Vulfpeck
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Johnny Cash
  • Marvin Gaye
  • Nina Simone

Need a little more inspiration to bring the BEST music to nurture your children’s musical development?

Access a FREE online music making session on us to bring the right educational kids music into your children’s lives today.

By Julie Murray

Owner and Teacher at Sounds Like This

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Lorna McDonald

A lovely read, my 2 year old is currently obsessed with Country and Queen 🥰