There are many parallels between how your child learns to talk and how she or he learns to sing. These processes happen organically. Although it takes several years for a child to move from babbling to saying words to speaking two-word sentences, she passes through all these stages in a seemingly effortless way; she seems to know how to teach herself these skills through imitation and practice.
At first many of her efforts are difficult to understand: "dog" may sound like "daw", for example, and grammatical errors are common. But gradually, by about the age of three or four, your child's speech becomes both intelligible and correct.
It's important for parents to recognize that musical growth also occurs in stages. Children pass through a "music babble" stage in which their movements and sounds don't necessarily seem truly musical - they are off the beat and not quite in tune. Over time, through observation and imitation, your child gradually aligns her music expression with the on-beat and in-tune models she experiences.
You, as the parent, instinctively translate your child's language attempts and offer a lot of support. Your child says "Ba," and you may ask, "Do you want a bottle?" You help shape your child's language experience through your interest and invovlement. But you may worry that you won't know how to recognize or suport emerging music behaviors.
It's simple! The best way to support musical growth is to engage in music activity. Listen to a variety of styles. Attend the free concerts at Millennium Park. Keep encouraging and celebrating your child's efforts to move and vocalize, even though it may take a while for you to see the connection between what he is doing and the music. Remember that a certain amount of physical maturation - and a lot of playful "practice" - is necessary before your child can learn to sing in tune and move with accurate rhythm. The more your child develops musically, the more fun and ease he'll have learning to play the piano, guitar, drums, sing or whatever else he chooses.
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