Mozart for Kids: Introducing Classical Music to Young Children

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

Many educational philosophies, including the Charlotte Mason method, place a high priority on music and art study as a way to inspire children and surround them with greatness.

The idea has always intrigued me, because though I’ve always wanted to enjoy classical music, it doesn’t come naturally to me. So during my homeschooling career I’ve been on the lookout for resources to inspire not only my children, but myself as well.

Here are a few ways I’ve found to do so.

1. Listen.

For Exposure

If the only time children ever hear classical music is during “school” time, it’s unlikely to become a long-lasting passion. The first step, therefore, is exposure.

Purchase or get from the library some good CDs highlighting various composers (These are the ones we like), and play them as you go about your day–during meals, while the kids do artwork, and so on.

Charlotte Mason schools often study the music of one composer for a whole term. You may find that your kids will begin recognizing specific aspects of musical style if you follow the same principle informally at home.

For Fun

Charlotte Mason might not approve of what I’m about to tell you, but the series of CDs called Beethoven’s Wig has taught me more about classical music than all the hours of listening I’d ever done before.

Beethoven’s Wig takes well-known classical pieces and adds lyrics to them–often hilarious lyrics that are memorable and also provide facts about the composer. After listening to the songs with words, each CD also includes the pieces without them.

2. Watch.

Photo by amazon.com

Some may not consider this completely educational, but my three (currently ages 7, 6, and 5) have been exposed to a great deal of classical music through the children’s show, Little Einsteins. As a busy mama, I personally have no problem with a quick fix that entertains, educates, and means I can make dinner in a peaceful kitchen.

Each episode features the work of one composer and one artist.

3. Read.

While at a homeschooling conference two years ago, I heard about an out-of-print series of chapter books based on the lives of composers. I filed it in the back of my head for when my kids were a bit older.

Well, we recently finished reading our first title in the series, called Mozart: The Wonder Boy. It did not disappoint. Each book shares the story of the composer’s early life, really providing a context to the music produced. Many titles in the series are now back in print, and some even come with an accompanying CD.

I learned so much from our Mozart study and enjoyed every minute!

As homeschooling parents, we don’t have to be worried about music and art being taken out of our curriculum during budget cuts. Instead, we can add the influence of music to our daily lives in gentle ways that enrich our homes.

Have you found any other helpful classical music resources?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.

Comments

  1. These are great suggestions! We are studying a different composer and artist each month this school year and it has been a huge hit with the kids! I have found a series of books at our library about certain composers and artists that have been great so far~I’ll be checking these that you’ve mentioned out, too. My kids also love the Little Einstein videos and often recognized music from previously watched shows~artwork, too! I love that!
    Lora @ my blessed life’s latest post: Feeling Fallish

  2. We ‘use’/watch Little Einstein’s too. My girls can recognize the piece of music when they hear it somewhere else & they sing the songs and use the musical terms. I need to add this to our routine. Thanks for the other suggestions!

  3. A friend recently sent me a DVD of the currently popular Andre’ Rieu concerts. His world tours and his absolute love of classical music is so appealing! His shows feature several great works and composers, which we then follow with more in depth listening.
    My daughters love Celtic Woman and opera has opened up through these DVDs and CDs.
    The best influence has been a very musical family with 7 children who all sing in parts. Our family is far from talented, but we give it a try too!
    I have made Famous Muscians wall chart and biography sheets which we use for our monthly composer studies.
    Nadene’s latest post: Pissarro with chalk pastels

  4. Thanks for this post Jamie. I am tagging it for future reference. Classical music study is not our gig and every time I try it just fails by the wayside. I’m not a big fan of it to be honest (except for certain pieces I recognize) and seem to have turned out ok.

    I need to figure out someway to work it in, at least a little bit, even though our family are devoted modern folk, rock, alternative, electronic music fans (Daddy is a big influence in this area – taking the kids to (Christian) rock concerts and buying most of the music in our house.)

  5. There’s also a great book called the Spiritual Lives of Great Composers. And in addition to the book you mentioned, there are also companion cd’s. (http://www.bookpeddler.com/Music.html) Book Peddler has many resources.
    I Live in an Antbed’s latest post: Psalm 148

  6. These are great suggestions. I have a great love for classical music. I think it stems from early exposure, and also from playing instruments and being involved in many choirs. I think the deepest love for music will come from children being sung to at the earliest age (even if the parents don’t think they can sing), especially folk, lullabies, and hymns, and also from the children actually playing an instrument and singing. There is something about rehearsing a piece of music over and over that gets ingrained in you, and stays with you forever. It’s like learning another language, and through repetition children can learn to appreciate it as it becomes a part of them.
    In our home our car station is almost always set to the local classical station. I like it because the announcers usually give a little bit of information about the composer, and it also lets me know about upcoming events in town that we may want to participate in. I think taking young children to concerts (they often have special performances just for children) is also a wonderful way to expose your children to classical music, and help them gain an interest and appreciation for some of the great works.
    Jane’s latest post: B is for Bombs and Butts and Boys

  7. My kiddos love Little Einsteins, too. For a long time, every piece he recognized would be “Little Einsteins’ music” and occasionally he’d be detailed enough to say which episode. My four year old now loves listening to Classical Kids CDs ( http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/cms_content?page=1596538&sp=1079&event=1079KID%7C443778%7C1079 ). They highlight a composer and his music. The music plays in the background while a story (often about the composer) is narrated. Now, when he recognizes a piece of music, he can say the composer, too – although it is often “Hey, this is from Beethoven Lives Upstairs!” I’ve learned a lot of interesting facts, too, and my classical music knowledge is greatly increasing. The only problem is that he usually listens to them as he’s falling asleep at night so I don’t often get to hear it.

    • In their younger years my kids enjoyed the Classical Kids series too. We’d also play full length CD’s of various composers as we worked on art projects or over lunch time to help build our recognition of pieces/composers. My kids tend to notice classical pieces in cartoons/movies b/c of our fairly casual ‘study’ of this mucial genre and my youngest enjoys dancing to whatever music I put on which further helps create a love for music in her. My middle child, who plays piano, already has some familiarity with which classical composers are her favorites – again, all from a fairly casual introduction in our homeschool. (We also enjoy folk, jazz, rock, and music from other cultures in this way).

  8. As a violin teacher, I definitely have some ideas to add. I love sharing my love of music with kids and even adults.

    Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Rachmaninoff is a great story and a great way to introduce kids to the sounds of the various instruments. This story is a favorite with my kids. I first introduced it in the car when they were fastened into their seats and had nothing else to do! Others we have learned this was is Carnival of the Animals and the Classical kids series on CD. Benjamin Britten’s “A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” is another one we’ll be listening to.

    Anna Harwell Celenza has written several books that are wonderful resources. Titles include “The Farewell Symphony” (Haydn), “Pictures at an Exhibition” (Mussorgsky), “Bach’s Goldberg Variations” (Bach), “The Heroic Symphony” (Beethoven) and “Rhapsody in Blue” (Gershwin). Each book is full of information about the composer and the particular work featured. There is also a recording of the work for you to listen to.

    Another suggestion that I haven’t seen mentioned to is find recordings of children performing at a high level. One that comes to mind is the CD “Debut” by Sarah Chang, recorded when she was only 9 years old. I’ve seen children connect more to the music when they realize it’s a child playing….not an accomplished adult.
    Jill Foley’s latest post: 307 – Family Hikes

  9. I grew up in a family that listened to a lot of classical music, danced ballet for years, and considered Amadeus my favorite movie as a kid. Not the most typical, I know.

    Thankfully, this has made classical exposure every natural in my family. My mother made sure to get my boys a CD of Peter and the Wolf (one of my favorite records growing up). This version is narrated by Leonard Bernstein and also includes The Carnival of the Animals and A Children’s Guide to the Orchestra. Even though my boys are getting older, they still love this CD.

    My mom also has given my boys CDs about composers’ lives. Off the top of my head, the only title I can think of is Beethoven Lives Upstairs, though we have several Mozart and Vivaldi, as well. Another fabulous resource is a book called CAN YOU HEAR IT? Famous paintings are paired with classical music (CD included). I love this book so much, I donated a copy to my school and shared it with my fourth graders. They absolutely loved it.
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: New Mexico Fall

  10. We love classical music.

    My son, who is two, has a book/CD combo of Peter and the Wolf. He asks to listen to it whenever we get in the car and then sits in the back and says, “I hear Peter!” when the strings start up. It helps that his name is Peter. It’s funny, because, although I always loved classical music and played piano growing up, I never liked Peter and the Wolf.

    What I loved as a kid, was a set of tapes. I think they still sell them on CD. One of them was Beethoven Lives Upstairs. It creates an entire audio story about the composer and interlaces it with some of their music. My siblings and I loved these. I believe there’s a whole series for different composers.

  11. The ear tends to enjoy what it has already heard- so you need to just keep listening and getting used to it. Little Einsteins is a cute cartoon- we have a DVD that the littles enjoy.
    priest’s wife’s latest post: Bill Clinton is Right

  12. There is nothing like listening to a classical concert live. Check around the major music halls offerings in your area — many of them offer “family concerts” that are condensed and geared towards younger kids (and at a discount!).
    amida’s latest post: Aratas Pumpkin Farm

  13. My favorite Classical Music resource is “The Story of the Orchestra” by Robert Levine. The first part of the book discusses the different time periods and the composers. The second part is all about the orchestra instruments. It comes with a CD too so you get to listen to music by the composers and music that features specific instruments or groups of instruments. My 6 year old has loved this book and already wants to read it again (this will be the 3rd time) This is a great resource for young and older children (probably ages 5-10).

    I have also used Disney’s World of Music video series (checked-out from our local library) and the Disney movie Fantasia.
    Amy-Cutting Coupons in KC’s latest post: Fall Workshops at the Shoal Creek Living History Museum 10-23

    • We also love The Story of the Orchestra at our home, as well as Disney’s Fantasia. We’ve watched several segments on YouTube that pertain to the composer we are studying. My favorites are Gershwin and Stravinsky.
      Heidi @ Mt Hope’s latest post: SaturdayFour

  14. I forgot to add, check your local colleges or universities for free concerts. We recently heard the Wind Ensemble from the Conservatory of Music at UMKC (Univ. of MO Kansas City) perform at a free community concert. It was a good opportunity to see if my son would enjoy (and sit still for) a concert. It was free, so we wouldn’t be out $100 if we had to leave in the middle of the concert. My son loved the entire concert and wants to go again!
    Amy-Cutting Coupons in KC’s latest post: Fall Workshops at the Shoal Creek Living History Museum 10-23

  15. I’ll second (third, fourth..) a few suggestions. My boys love the Classical Kids series (Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage, Song of the Unicorn, Halleluja Handel, etc.). We’ve listened to (and watched) Peter and the Wolf over and over. Anna Harwell Celenza’s books are beautiful. We recently read Mozart’s biography by Diane Stanley. We’ve also listened to Beethoven’s Wig.

    The boys have all enjoyed Little Einsteins. I realized just how much they learned when my oldest began piano lessons. He recognized so many of the simple classical melodies that he was learning to play (I adore the beginning piano books by Faber & Faber, particularly the Classics series), and now his younger brother is doing the same.
    Heidi @ Mt Hope’s latest post: SaturdayFour

  16. I agree! It’s a great idea to introduce young children to classical music. Like Rene’ my husband is also the music guru in our household so the kids ( and I ) have been exposed to just about every kind of music known to man! We take a more casual approach though, instead of them memorizing who played what and the time period, we just listen then discuss what our interpretations are of the music. Some children take a liking to classical music, but many just don’t. It’s o.k. to not like or enjoy something! We always say, give it a try first.. then you’ll know for sure! That being said, our daughter is being trained in piano in classical music and has learned and enjoyed several Mozart pieces.

  17. I grew up listening to classical music and I love it, but I’m glad for the reminder to play it more at home! I also think that sharing our true passions with our kids is the most important thing. It’s great to expand your horizons and appreciate a broader range of music, but playing music that truly moves you will make a more lasting impression.
    Kelly’s latest post: Blogging Break

  18. We’ve enjoyed this site with weekly podcasts and an archive of many past shows.

    http://www.classicsforkids.com/

  19. When my children were young, we fell in love with classical music CD’s that had fun lyrics set to them to help us remember the composers. I used them as warm-ups in our local homeschool choir, too.

    I can’t find the ones I used (it was 15 years ago), but these look very similar. Classical Karaoke for Kids by Marjorie Persons.

    http://www.amazon.com/Classical-Karaoke-Kids-Marjorie-Persons/dp/0967599725/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1

  20. I absolutely love classical music and I know for a fact it comes from playing the piano since I was a little girl. Playing an instrument gives you the ability to interpret a song in you own way. I was very expressive in my playing and often used the piano to release any of my frustrations or emotions. So, first and foremost, playing an instrument is going to encourage an appreciation of classical music.
    I do think the composer can have a huge impact on catching kids attentions. I had a passion for Chopin and I remember reading about his life and that resulted in his being my favorite composer (still is!). Same thing happened when the movie Amadeus came out. I also remember pondering how Beethoven wrote his music when he couldn’t hear. Learning about their lives helps bring the music to life.
    I will say I have turned so many people onto classical music with a set of classical guitar CD’s I own. It’s fun to compare that with popular bands and even heavy metal where classical riffs are very common. I used to know a man who produced hip-hop that sampled classical music. Find ways to relate it to modern music and they’ll appreciate it more.
    One of my favorite memories is dancing with my niece to Ravel’s Bolero. She loved it! We started out with small movements to go with the softness and ended up jumping and leaping when it got loud and vibrant.
    AprilS’s latest post: Algebra 1 – Rational Functions

  21. Mother of Pearl says:

    Our local public radio station plays a Classical Kids piece once a month and we always listen to it. They have some great hosts for their classical music programs, and listening to them introduce the pieces is quite enlightening in itself.

  22. there is also a series of Leonard Bernstein explaining wonderful ideas and history facts about the evolution of Music

    hope you like it, i have it on DVD so no link for that.. :\

    M

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