One of my biggest goals as a parent isn’t to fit my son into an idea of who I think he should be but to expose him to as many interests, experiences and cultural offerings I can within my budget and capabilities, such as hands on music. I would love to take him to Europe to see my favorite paintings, or to hear an opera in Belfast’s ornate opera house … but he is 3, and even if we had that much money to spend on travel instead of student loans and our mortgage the idea of a jet lagged 3 year old scares me. One day he will see it all, I am determined but until then our cultural experiences are a little closer to home. We often go on field trips on Fridays and we rarely spend more than we have to- here was our latest adventure.
- Spend some time searching through your local sights ( zoo, symphony, children’s museums, art museums, aquarium…) websites. Most will have one day a month ( or more) that are free to the public. To me this is imperative especially the first time you go somewhere like this because it’s a great time to test out if your child is ready if the exhibits will hold their attention, basically if it’s a good fit for your family. You can also check their websites for cool programs, we found out that there was a special ( free) hands on music storytime included with our free admission!
- Pack light but effectively. Obviously with only 1 kid, I am able to keep it minimalistic these days. Extra pants, extra undies, a camera, snacks, wallet and it all fits in a small purse. It’s easier to chase after a kid with less baggage !
- Eat a meal before you go. A full child is a focused child!
- Make sure there is time for free exploration – don’t over schedule your time . If they like a specific exhibit go back to it as much as possible , within reason of course. My son loved the instruments, we went back to the hands on music display multiple times.
- Encourage your child to take advantage of anything special – one of the educators took out a trombone to play with and at first my son was shy but with gentle coaxing was playing and talked about this more than anything on the way home.
- As I said before take advantage of the special programs, this was music story time where we sang, played drums and listened to a story .
- After a big day out nothing is a better than crashing in your car seat on the way home .
- When you are home keep the learning going with books, printing out pictures and going over what you did and what you learned!
Books to pair with Hands on Music
Mole Music by David McPhail is a beautiful book about the power of music, trying hard and not giving up on your dreams. The story is about a mole who sees a violin on TV one day and decides to get his own and play. He is terrible at first but sticks with it. His music becomes beautiful, and over the years he thinks only he can hear and enjoy it. In reality his music is nourishing a grand tree above the ground that serves roles in great things including as a mediator in a battle where both sides end up coming to a peaceful agreement instead of warfare. Now yes I think that one little mole’s music ending a war is a rather large statement but if you break it down, music and the arts are vital and do transform people’s lives the way they transformed Mole’s. My favorite part is in one illustration Mole is playing anf in another tunnel you can see his old TV discarded and tipped over, I like that message.
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss is a big hit at our house and if you have a child into music or musical instruments this is a great book. You count the instruments as they come on stage for a performance and not only is this a great counting book, but it introduced musical instruments in its rhyming text and super fun pictures. I am biased though my little man is really really into instruments and loves this book. The day we bought it I had to sit in the back with him on the way home from the bookstore because he couldn’t wait to read it
Moose Music by Sue Porter is a goofy book about how what might sound like a racket to you, may indeed be music to other ears. Moose finds a violin in the mid and picks it up, and plays it. The sound is not music to the animals and people in the forest. They get angry, they threaten to chase him, and he doesn’t stick around. He doesn’t stop playing though he plays with all his heart and finally someone appreciates it. A lady moose, as you may have guessed it they fall in love and live happily ever after. My son thought this book was hilarious. It’s a cute lesson about following your heart even in the face of adversity.