Realizing your Child’s Musical Potential


By Dr. Doreen Fryling, Ed.D.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]If you’re reading this, you are probably the parent of a young child. So, I know you’ve only got a minute. I’ll keep this short.

You want your child to reap the benefits of a lifetime of music making. You’ve heard the buzz, read the articles about why music education is beneficial to children, and maybe even experienced the rewards of music yourself. But this age’s seemingly unlimited access to music-making can be daunting rather than empowering. It can be hard to know if you’re doing the right thing with your child.

Start by making music a normalized activity. This means that music is a part of your child’s everyday life, happens spontaneously, and without judgment. For young children, music making most often occurs as some form of singing. The very youngest will coo and babble and imitate. Vocalization becomes more consistent and structured as children age, with school-aged children able to sing complete songs. [/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

The author and her son (19 months).[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Someone told me not to sing…


But let’s talk about judgment. The number one thing that I hear from people when I tell them that I am a music teacher is that someone told them not to sing. Most often, they recount stories of family members making fun of them. Let’s put an end to this useless and harmful practice. Make your home a place where your child feels safe to sing. Don’t tease–or worse, coach–your child. Young children are, by nature, not great singers. It’s all part of the developmental process. Don’t let adult ears put undue pressure on a child to “be better.”  Let your child just sing. Make it a normal thing that happens in your home.

Music making for young children is not about performing. Try to balance the need to show-off your child’s abilities by understanding that they make music not for the sake of performing, but because it’s a natural human ability that offers psychological and physical rewards. Music making for young children might happen anywhere – in a stroller, in the car, or while playing on the floor. It doesn’t necessarily need to be directed, though it’s a wonderful bonding activity to sing with your child. Allow for creative vocal improvising (singing narratives while playing with toys) by providing quiet times for play. Turn off TVs, stereos, computers, tablets, and smartphones, and give your child time to make music without the competition of our noisy world. You, too, might find yourself singing, if you allow for quiet time during the day.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][vc_column_text]The author’s son (4 years old) spontaneously singing at a museum.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music: Not for the few…


Music making for the young child, and anyone really, is not reserved only for people with a profound natural ability. Music making can be enjoyable for anyone at any ability level. That being said, if you are a parent who does not love their own singing voice for whatever reason, I beg of you to ignore that inner dialogue holding you back from singing in front of anyone and let your child hear you sing. Sing while you change their diaper, sing while you prepare meals, sing while you clean-up (together). The model you provide of a confident, expressive singer will be the foundation for your child’s own musical beliefs.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

singing and imitation
The author’s daughter imitating what she’s seen her parents do when they look at music. She was just happily singing whatever she wanted as she turned the pages.

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Find music around you


Children absorb the music around them. Don’t feel like you have to feed them a steady stream of Mozart, or so-called “children’s music.” First of all, you’ll drive yourself crazy. Second of all, good music is good music. Let them hear the music you enjoy. (Just make sure it’s not too loud. Protect those little ears).

Find music around you. Point out music in stores, on the street, and at events. Try a young person’s concert at a local venue. Just be realistic about how long your child will stay engaged. You may want to take them to a show, but know that you may need to step out (several times) or leave before it’s done. Seek out free music concerts, because they’re way easier to cut your losses and leave early if need be. Outdoor concerts are perfect for little kids.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Foster creativity in your child by letting your child free play with small instruments (hand drums, bells, shakers, pots and pans!). And no, your child will not be scarred for life if you don’t start violin lessons at age three. If there’s an interest and a willingness on your part to find the right teacher and help with practicing, go for it. If not, wait until your child is ready and/or your school offers instrumental lessons.

Vocal lessons, however, are unnecessary until after your child goes through puberty. If your child wants to sing more, take them to group music lessons as young children and then enroll them in a children’s choir when they are school-aged. Don’t forget to support your local school music programs, because that’s the place where they’ll have their most consistent music education as they journey from childhood to young adulthood![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

Just to review:

  • Make music everyday with your child
  • Don’t judge your child’s music making
  • Sing for/with your child
  • Let your child play in a quiet environment
  • Seek out appropriate concert experiences
  • Listen to any kind of music with your child
  • Limit exposure to devices that displace creative free play
  • Don’t project your own feelings of musical inadequacy on your child
  • Express joy/thankfulness/praise when your child makes music for/with you

Benefits from music making as a child include improved well-being, intellectual growth, health benefits, joy from music making, and social benefits such as self-confidence and connectivity to other children. So whatever you do, provide time and support for music making to occur in your child’s life. It just may be the greatest gift you give them.

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The author’s children magically getting along while improvising at the piano.
The author’s children magically getting along while improvising at the piano.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A note from Dr. Boyle: Wonderful information from Dr. Fryling! So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a free Kindermusik class near you![/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Doreen Fryling, Ed.D. is in her twentieth year as a public school music educator. She currently teaches IB Music and chorus classes at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, NY, and has previously taught K-5 general music and middle school chorus. Doreen is a founding member of the eVoco Voice Collective and a professional chorister in the Brick Choir in NYC. In addition to her school choirs, Doreen has conducted the Hofstra University Chorale, the Hofstra University Chorus, and the MYO Nassau Concert Choir. She also maintains an active schedule as a collaborative pianist.

Doreen recently completed a Doctorate of Education in Learning and Teaching at Hofstra University. She holds degrees, as well, from Susquehanna University and the University of Michigan. In 2016, Doreen was recognized as a semifinalist for the Grammy Music Educator Award. Doreen shares her love of music making with her husband, David, and their two children. You can read more from the author at

Fryling, D. S. (2015). Persistence in choral music: An investigation into psychological and sociological factors involved in choral membership (Order No. 3734137). Available from Dissertations & Theses @ Hofstra University; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I. (1732359916). Retrieved from

Hallam, S. (2010). The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people. International Journal of Music Education, 28(3), 269-289. doi:10.1177/0255761410370658

Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. (2001, November 1). Retrieved January 18, 2016, from

Williams, K. E., Barrett, M. S., Welch, G. F., Abad, V., & Broughton, M. (2015). Associations between early shared music activities in the home and later child outcomes: Findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 31113-124. doi:10.1016/j.ecresq.2015.01.004[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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