What should a child’s first instrument be?

Well, that’s easy … the piano, correct? But, let’s think about it. Children are actually learning to use their first musical instrument when they start to coo and babble. They start using their voice as a baby when they mimic the sounds all around them. This is how they learn to talk, and this is how they learn to sing. Their vocal cords are their own personal instrument, with its own unique sound. This is the first instrument that they learn to use.

When babies and toddlers are encouraged to copy sounds frequently, they remember how to do it and soon it becomes “normal”. This all leads to singing on pitch.

Your children will get singing and musical education at school, but we all know that music curriculum in most schools has been decreasing over the years. The more musical engagement you can encourage at home, the better. Does it matter if you are on pitch? Well, in the beginning….NO. It matters that you are singing and that you are enjoying music with your child.

Let’s move ahead a bit to age 3 or 4. A good age to know if your child is able to match pitch. Can they imitate a fire siren? Can you? If so, this means you able to zip up your vocal cords to make high sounds. They most likely can, but in some cases where a child has a deep or raspy voice (from illness, hoarseness or cough) they may be reluctant or unable to. This is where it is important to keep the child exploring their voice….making sounds that are more than just talking.

Singing requires the vocal cords to “zip up” because we don’t sing in only the pitches that we talk. In order to match the higher pitches, our brain has to know how to zip up the vocal cords and keep them that way.

An important note to mention is that the music you and I sing to is much lower than music children should be singing to. It’s important for kids to listen to music in their range, so they can copy properly. This is one reason music is so very important in the school. It’s vital for children to experience singing with their peers in a musical key that suits their voice.

So, why not think of your child’s voice as their first musical instrument. Encourage them to match pitch when they sing. This will go a long way in their future musical journey. It really is a use it or lose it scenerio. Children who “can’t carry a tune” grow into adults who “can’t carry a tune”.

The Music for Young Children program including Music Pups is a great way to engage in singing and musical fun with your child. There are classes all over the world. You can find them here www.myc.com and www.themusicclass.com.

Do you have a comment? Please leave me your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “What should a child’s first instrument be?

  1. My 2 year old grandson has shown an interest in music since he was an infant. When he hears music, he drums along on the furniture or whatever is nearby. He loves to strum on my guitar and sing along. Anything that has a hole in, he will use to blow and hum through. I bought him a set of tunable bongo drums for his 2nd birthday. I have been considering getting a recorder or a slide whistle. Are there any instruments that you would recommend or maybe think we should stay away from until he is ready for more formal training? He knows how to turn on my radio and start the music already. He talks pretty well in 4 and 5 word sentences.

    • Hi and thanks for your comment. Many companies have music instruments available to purchase for preschool children that are safe and fun to play. These include bells, shakers, drums, wood blocks, and tambourines. I like to buy my instruments from Empire Music, here in Canada. You don’t have to buy anything at all, however, to have fun. As you already mentioned, all you need is imagination! For instance, pots and pans and wooden spoons make a great set of drums!!

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