Lots of parents want to instill a love of music in their kids, myself included. There are so many great opportunities in Shanghai for kids to experience and learn about music. From music appreciation classes for babies and their caretakers to music schools that allow kids to explore making music themselves, we’re spoiled for options in Shanghai. But let’s not forget that a fun way to teach kids about music is just sharing music together on a daily basis.
In our family we strive to make sure that music is not just an activity, but also an integral part of our home life. My husband Liu Jian and I met when I happened to hear him perform at a bar in Hangzhou, so from the start, music has played an important role in our life together. Once we had kids it seemed only natural to share music with them.
In the morning, I wake up with my 4 year old and 1 year old and often put on music to accompany our daily routine. Our home can be noisy, especially when the kids are bickering, which is pretty much every day. But listening to songs can help the kids refocus their attention and improve their moods (and mine). It’s also a good way to distract them from asking for the ipad. These days my daughter likes to listen to the soundtrack to the Disney movie Moana and we sing along as we eat breakfast.
I like to share different types of music with them to see what kind of reaction they will have. These days, children’s music from around the world is being made in every style. I play them songs from different countries and different bands. I like to play songs I enjoyed when I was growing up, and bands I’m just learning to appreciate. We like to explore new songs and find new favorites. My daughter often asks me about the meaning of the lyrics she hears and I teach her new words. Soon she’s memorizing the lyrics and singing them herself.
Too soon, it is time to take my daughter to school. We hop on my bike and make up little songs along the way. Going to school is not always a happy time for my daughter, but I think singing along the way helps her forget her anxieties. For me, making music together on our short bike ride to school is a fun way to relieve my stress before the workday begins.
After school and on the weekends, we are often treated to my husband’s guitar playing. I still remember watching my little son bobbing his head to the beat of his daddy’s music when he was just a baby. Now the two kids listen to him play, and try to strum his guitar themselves.
I took music classes as child but for the most part I hated them. I didn’t feel I was good at music and the music I was learning wasn’t fun. Lately though I’ve been inspired to take up an instrument. I practice the ukulele while the kids play and sometimes show my daughter how to play the easier chords.
After dinner, there will often be an impromptu dance party in our home. The other night, the kids and I rocked out to our favorite new band Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, who make indie rock for kids. They jumped on the bed and wiggled around dancing and I have to confess, I started jumping around too.
Listening to all this music in the house is what gave my husband the idea to make China’s first international music festival just for kids and families. We want to introduce amazing children’s music from around the world to Chinese families and through music, expose kids to the world around them. We have a 5-year plan for our music festival. We want to bring bands from 10 countries to over 100 cities in China.
I think the important thing about the music education we are giving our kids is that we are enjoying the music together and jamming together to music we all love. Alongside showing my kids how to appreciate music, I know we’re also creating happy family memories.
Some of our favorite songs to share as a family:
Lucky Diaz and the Family Band- Thingamagig
Hippe Gasten (Netherlands)- Een beetje Pippi
They Might Be Giants (USA)- Seven Days of the Week I Never Go to Work
Elizabeth Mitchell and Dan Zanes (USA)- Now Let’s Dance
Mrs H and the Singalong Band (UK)- Get on the Train
Hevisaurus (Finland)- Rayh
Rebecca Kanthor is an American journalist based in Shanghai. She and her husband, Chinese folk-rock musician and author Liu Jian, are organizing China’s first international music festival for kids and families. For more information and to buy tickets, check out www.handinhandchina.com or follow their wechat: HandinHand手拉手国际儿童音乐节