Is Music Just for Fun?

I often look for good CDs from the library for my daughter for our car rides.  We don’t drive a ton, but the trip to and from her forest preschool is 20-30 minutes each way and especially after class, she’s so tired, she’s not in the mood for our usual car games or even just chatting.  She loves music however.  My problem is that I often don’t like kids music, but luckily neither does she (for the most part), but after recycling our Springsteen CD (The Rising) for months, I realized it was time to check out what else was out there.

I decided to go educational on her, wondering if she’d even notice or, perhaps more importantly, care.  We have They Must Be Giants and she enjoys, but honestly, it’s a little mellow for her.  At 4 (though newly 5), whatever we played had to still rock (besides Bruce, she’s very into Twisted Sister).  I picked up one called Teacher and the Rockbots’ Science.  She loves science, robots are fun, so why not?

I put it on and she was immediately hooked.  However, we picked up my husband that day and he heard a few moments and couldn’t take it.  It was rock-like (almost punk like) and the first song was all about the animal classes followed by a song on the digestive track and then the food chain.  Not what he had in mind for a ride home.  We turned it off and I promised my daughter I’d play it the next day.

Over the next couple weeks she would ask for the “animal song” every time we got into the car.  I even found myself singing along to some of the tunes, any original thoughts of “oh dear” completely washed away.  Finally it happened again that we were going to pick up my husband from work.  He got in, she asked for her song again, so I put it on.  He wasn’t thrilled, but he tolerated it.  As the song blared out clues about an animal class, talking about animals whose babies drink milk and who sweat when it’s hot out, my daughter yelled out, “MAMMALS!”

My husband looked shocked.

This was followed by her answering that the next class – the ones covered in feathers and who lay hard-shelled eggs – was “BIRDS”.  (I should add that she doesn’t memorize – she has to actually understand the clue.  If we speak during the clues, she won’t guess or say what it is because she hasn’t listened so we knew that she was actually learning this information.   That and she now babbles about it to anyone and everyone.)

He looked at me, saying, “I get this now.”  Suddenly it made sense.  The noise that drove him nuts before he now realized was one of the ideal ways to help our daughter learn, and learn when she wasn’t even trying.  This wasn’t school or homework, but just singing along and having fun.  She even managed to school her older brother by telling him all the different animal classes when even he couldn’t name them all.

Herein is the point of my story: Music should never be ignored as an amazing teaching tool yet it is vastly underused in today’s schools and homes.  I don’t know why it’s not more common, but putting information to music is one of the sure-fire ways for kids (and us adults) to actually learn.  Catchy tunes stick in our heads, and perhaps more importantly, we humans seem to all love music meaning it’s an easy way to review information without it feeling like work.  When it’s already done for you, like my daughter’s CD, that’s great, but even better is having kids write their own songs about the information they’re learning, ensuring they really retain what it is you’re trying to teach.  If you’re lucky, they may not even know how much they’re studying.

Group Activity for Songwriting

  • Pick topics that children will be learning about. The topics should be large enough to let them find the key points, but not so large that they cannot find concrete information to share.  For example, the planets are a great topic as a few key facts for each planet can be done in one tune. 

  • Have the children pick songs they like and can get the lyrics to.

  • Once children have the key points of information to share in their lyrics, they need to find a way to put that information into lyrical form. This means thinking of rhyme and rhythm, and making sure the information fits the original lyrical flow. 

  • For each child (or small group) that does their own song, get the music background and record them signing their song. Create a CD for the group (very easy using CD burning software and blank CDs) with all their songs and bits of information on it.  They now have a new study tool for whatever unit they’re doing.  They can also decorate the cover and title the songs, making it a little more personal for them.


By Tracy Cassels

June 29, 2015