Lately, I have been spending more and more “guitar time” with my oldest son, Max (5). Though I used to sit down with him once or twice a week and let him have lightly structured “fun” (which is what I refer to as the “babble phase”) I realize as these days go by that if I want him to reap the rewards of mastering a musical instrument, I have to assume responsibility for creating and maintaining consistent, structured, and entertaining “guitar time” at home. I have to make music and active music-making a priority. This is no small task.
I often suggest methods and ways to help your child with guitar time at home and am realizing more and more that while it’s easy to suggest ideas, actually sitting down for a 10-20 minute “guitar time” four or five times a week is challenging given the stresses and other activities vying for our attention. So, I’d like to assert that I am now in the same boat that all of you are in with your little (and not so little anymore!) aspiring musicians and yet am paradoxically even more aware that active music making is fundamentally important on many, many levels.
Over the years I’ve read my share of articles and studies about music and education and it’s hard to not reiterate that children who actively participate in music making tend to do better in reading and math when they start school, develop a higher self-esteem, and are able to focus better at individual tasks. Music also enhances their memory skills, poise, and self-expression. And, of course, it brings them and us joy. For all these reasons, making music is not just fun, but vital – in infancy, throughout childhood, and beyond.
For those of you just embarking on the first steps with lessons (and while the novelty still helps keep you and your child inspired), etch out a permanent “guitar time” in your schedule and actively help your children develop as musicians. The more per week the better, but keep it short and fun. For those of you who have children past the novelty stage, don’t forget to recognize and praise your child’s musical efforts. Sitting down next to them as they play and asking them to show you how to do what they do will encourage their confidence. Helping them make lists of guitar activities that they can check off throughout the week towards a prize is also encouraging. Unexpected rewards are great, too: “I heard you play through two of your songs and a scale and thought you should have a treat for sounding beautiful and trying hard.” For those of you who want to shake things up a bit, attend a live concert, start learning an instrument, or help your child organize a “house concert” for friends and family.