You’ve probably read about the benefits of music for infants and children. There are many ways that babies and toddlers can experience music by listening and dancing to music at home, going to concerts, or taking a class. As a newborn, we did a lot of singing to her and we would listen to music in our house. Our children’s music collection was just beginning. I made my first mixed cd for my new little girl with all these sappy country and popular music about a mother’s love for her child. We bought kids music and lullabies on iTunes mostly because we found ourselves unable to remember all of the words when we were trying to sing to her.
My family has always loved music and participated in bands or choirs. My sister, brother, and I were in the school bands for years and I attempted to hide my off-pitch voice in the choir for a couple of years. Music was played in the house and in the cars. I minored in music and played clarinet in the university band. Then I continued to play after college for a community band. Also, I unsuccessfully tried to teach myself to play the piano. I never thought of music as a passion or hobby it was always just a part of my life.
I started my daughter in a music class around nine months old. The music class we took was a 9 session class. It takes a couple of years to get through all 9 sessions. Over that time, as we thought about what toys to buy our daughter, we tried to buy age appropriate instruments that contributed to our music education and fun. Below is a list of great toys that work well for kids under the age of four. Some instruments are definitely are definitely geared towards younger kids and all children should be supervised when playing with these instruments.
I don’t consider myself a music educator at all. And most likely there are better names for most of these instruments that what I call them. This list of instruments comes from my experience with my own daughter and what I observed in our music classes. First, start off with great music. Whether it be kids music, Christmas music, or versions of the music you listen to, turn on some music and let your child play along. Hold your infant and dance to the music. You child will love it. Put some of these instruments on the floor, sit down, and take turns playing the instruments with your child. Show him how it works and watch what he does with it. A lot of these instruments come with sticks or small pieces. Buy age appropriate toys and make sure your child is safe when playing with them. You can even just take those sticks away until they get old enough to use them.
Great Instruments for Musical Play
- Shakers – Every toy store has age appropriate rattles. Also in this category are maracas and musical eggs. These are easy instruments for young toddlers and babies to hold onto. Many of the youngest children will be able to start shaking it to make music.
- Bells – Bells are easy for babies to play with and a lot of fun for toddlers because they make a lot of noise. There are bells on sticks, bells that look like blocks, and bells that are on a piece of fabric that can be made into a loop and easier to hold or put around a baby’s wrist so it makes noise as he shakes his arms.
- Toy drums – Once children can sit up, this electrical light up toy drum is easy for them to tap and see a reaction to changes in the lights and changes in the sounds. Even as an infant, the lights and noise are fun for the baby to watch and listen to. My parents gave this to my nephew as a baby and he and his sister both played with it. My sister gave it to my daughter as a method of torture to me.
- Triangle – From a very young age, my daughter was playing the triangle. Okay, let’s be real, she was chewing on it. For some reason, when she was a 9-month-old baby, she wanted to chew on all the metal musical instruments. I’d hide the little stick that came with it because the thought of that stabbing her as she swung her arms around terrified me. Alternatively, I would play the triangle and let her watch me until she pulled it away from me to chew on it again. Yes, everything in the music class was sanitized. I saw it happen. Even still, it grossed me out that she wanted to chew on the metal instruments.
- Tambourine – Tambourines are pretty easy to use. They come in all sizes and you can find some that are small enough for baby’s hands.
- Symbols – There is nothing cuter than a toddler who is sitting around banging together symbols or the lids to pots and pans. Unless you have a headache. Or you have really nice pans that were given to you as a wedding present from you parents that you would rather your daughter not be banging around. Surprising to me, I was actually less concerned about these pans lids than I thought I would be. The picture I took of her banging them around was worth the couple of dings they might have gotten.
- Toy drums – Bongos or drums to be played with sticks. These are also great for very the youngest toddlers. It’s easy to bang your hands in the direction of a drum and make some noise.
- Sticks – I love to play with sticks. These were a must have for our instrument box, along with a pad that my daughter was allowed to bang them on so she didn’t bang them on my furniture and hardwood floors (I used a large mousepad). “Sit with Sticks” is a good mantra to sing from an early age so they learn to sit while playing with them.
- Clatterpillar – It’s a relatively quiet instrument and interesting to watch while it’s being played.
- Rainmaker – Can be used as a rattle. This is just fun to watch. For a while, it was my daughter’s favorite instrument. It’s safe. It’s not too loud. It’s colorful. What else does a baby need? I bought this for a long car ride because I knew it wouldn’t be too loud and obnoxious.
- Sandpaper blocks – These are not loud or obnoxious, which is always a great musical instrument to own.
- Wood Frog Giro and other Giros– This sounds so much like a frog that I just love it. It’s a little hard to play for younger, less coordinated kids, but it’s fun for adults to play!
- Clappers and Wooden Castanets – These are fantastic toys for very young kids to play and learn how movements they make with their hands can make noises with the instruments. You can teach your kids to play it in ways that work for their tiny hands and for their level of coordination.
- Keyboards – Inexpensive keyboards can be found in toy stores and are great fun for kids of all ages. Make sure you can control the volume, you’ll want that ability. Wood blocks – These are also pretty easy for kids of all ages to play.
- Toy Trumpet – This was another gift from my sister and her husband. Apparently, my husband and I gave her kids noisy toys pretty often. We didn’t know the full impact of those gifts back then but I think they are having fun paying us back for the gifts. I’m not going to try to convince you this is a quiet toy. However, I will admit, it’s a fun one.
- Guitar – Our music class teacher always has a guitar and lets the kids play hers at the end of class. We wanted to get one for my daughter, but wanted one that wasn’t too young so that she would want to keep using it as she grew older.
We are now done with our that cycle of music classes and are going to try some athletics for our organized activities. Having a selection of instruments to play with at home will allow us to continue making music together. These are some great instruments. Enjoy them. I apologize in advance for any headaches you may get.
Do you have an instrument that you and your child loves to play? Please share it in the comments.