how to introduce children to music when you are non-musician? (part 1)

Activity 1: Surviving in the forest… or maybe just pretend to….
May 7, 2017
Introducing your children to music when you don’t know much about music (Part 2- percussions)
June 2, 2017

Pour lire la version française de cet article, cliquez ici 

I am just going to say it right away: I’m a musician and also teach music, but I’ve never been able to teach my children to play an instrument. As soon as they feel that I want to teach them something, they drop out. On the other hand, with their music teacher, it is quite different, they are of course attentive and interested.  It taught me that sometimes it’s better to outsource some portions of my kid’s education.

However, before I could enroll them in music classes, I tried to develop their music knowledge in many ways. There is something I like before outsourcing some ”teaching parts” of my children: I like it when they feel they know a little about what they are going to learn. I like activating their prior/related knowledge on a subject. This is a way to make them more active in their learning afterward. If they have some basic knowledge on a subject, they will feel they are building knowledge on pillars rather than collecting information and organize it randomly.

To illustrate this, let’s pretend you are told that you have to learn Chinese. If you have never heard Chinese language and don’t have a clear picture of what you can learn from it, you might be a little lost. If you have some knowledge of what your teacher is showing you, your level of involvement will necessarily be higher, and you will be more efficient at storing the information in your long-term memory. If also, you know a few words, maybe your brain will be more alert to decode some words you might recognize in the teacher’s speech.

It’s the same with music. What I’m talking about in this case is called musical awakening. It sounds babyish, but it can be interesting for anyone, even adults.

Often, I will talk about the goals or approaches I use with the parents of my students. I get answered: ” bah I know nothing about music, I’m really bad, I stopped at 8 because I didn’t want to practice ”. I hear the same thing with teenagers in special education setting, for whom music is often left aside for school support. I sincerely believe what Auguste Gusteau said in the film Ratatouille: ” Everyone can cook ”, Well, everyone can play music too! However, our image of the traditional music class is sometimes scary or worse: recalls bad memories. You do not have to use this type of approach. There are others. There are more “creative” and ”intuitive” ways to learn music.

The Orff Schulwerk or the Kodaly methods, for example, are based on musical improvisation music and movement. These pedagogies are not perfect but are engaging people actively. You can look online for trained teacher with these approaches, or you can learn about them and inspire yourself from the components.

For the Orff Schulwerk method, the idea is basically to create music using melodic, rhythmic and vocal patterns. You would eventually develop concepts according to the musical nomenclature. The pedagogy we know in several schools is based on the opposite: notions first, creativity afterward. Maybe that’s why it is scary.

When we start using color pencils, it is perfectly acceptable to try to draw something before learning the technique. That, even if at the beginning the sketch is difficult to interpret. This is how children usually learn how to hold their pencils, control their movements, and so on. Can you imagine if we would do the opposite and learn the technique before, how intimidating drawing would be?

Here is a link for more information on the Orff approach:

I will present you some activities you can do with your children to develop their musical skills … and maybe yours too! Nevertheless, I will have to explain some of them into more details in my next article because otherwise, it would be too long. That way, it will give you some time to get instruments or to make them.

I suggest you get some instruments. Real ones, not those bought in a toy store.

It depends on the age of your children and your budget I admit. Why wouldn’t you buy musical instruments in a toy store? Because these instruments are often expensive and badly designed. I have a wooden xylophone from a very famous and respected toy brand for children … and also very expensive. Whenever I use it, it annoys me so much because it does not follow the notes of the scale. There is a note that is untuned. You’re saying it’s not that bad if my child is two years old? I think it could be bad since musical ear training is something very intuitive.

It’s like as if a child encoded the word “resturant” globally every day because you pass a restaurant poster missing a letter. You do not know how many links your child will make with this word to build other knowledge. It is a pyramid of things that he will have re-analyze when he gets that the word restaurant is written with ” au ” which makes it sounds ” ao ”. It does not matter that much, but it is not necessary.

Also, baby maracas also don’t resonate enough. A baby ukulele costs almost the same price as a real ukulele, and you will be able to change the strings if necessary. Convinced?

Here is a list of fun instruments you could have at home because they are easy to learn and because there is a way to have fun without spending hours practicing.


For example, I have a drum set that cost me about $ 50. There are three drums in the bag, and it’s great because we can play several percussion games.

A djembe is always a good idea. Moreover, you will always have guests playing with it.

A glockenspiel (a metallophone) or a xylophone. A real one with real notes. If you can remove and put back the tiles, it is even better.

Egg shakers and hand percussions such as a woodblock, cabassa etc. There are several sets of Orff instruments that you can get, or you can even buy them individually. Also, I’ve personally never really understood the interest, but I have a set of jingle bells, and it always have a huge success with kids.

 A lamellaphone (malimba)

A harmonica. It sounds difficult to learn? Nope!

A recorder. I guess it depends on your tolerance for noise, but it is a good way to learn and read music to children from five years old.

A Ukulele, because everyone can play the Ukulele.

In several music schools, it is also possible to rent musical instruments for a predetermined period. This is a good opportunity for children to try several instruments to see if they get attracted and motivated to one in particular.

I will share some activities you can do with these instruments if you do not have much musical knowledge. You can ”google” some of them and find many examples. By clicking on the following hyperlinks, you will get an idea of what I mean. I have written another article with some of these activities such as improvisation, chords singing and the drum circle, in more details. You can read it there.

So, What to do?

  • Set up a Family Drum Circle. 
  • Follow the pulse of a song with a hand percussion.

  • Use the chords of a song and play the first note with a melodic instrument. Scores with chords are all over the Internet in any languages. This site is very useful for this:
  • Use colored notes music sheet to play the xylophone, glockenspiel or the piano.Here are some resources:

Oscar’s Color of Music

23 colored piano sheet  This one in particular worth its price of 10$ and is super user-friendly.

These kinds of methods have been very popular recently, so you usually need to pay to get the music sheet with the colors. But there is an alternative. Since the colors of the notes change from one method to the other, I suggest that you download this music sheet of famous nursery rhymes and you color the notes yourself based on your color scale. It could be something like:

A= Blue, B=green, C=yellow, D= red, E= purple F= gray G= pink

If you are unable to recognize the note of the staff, just ask someone who can do it for you. It takes a maximum of 15 minutes to the complete job.


  • Use Applications to learn music, but I have to say that most of the time you can’t transfer what you’ve learned (if you’ve learned something) on a particular instrument, it’s mostly games. Apps about rhythm are more easily transferable to real music learning. The best application by far, in my opinion, remains Rhythmic Village. Otherwise, this one: Incredibox, is a valuable starting point to improvisations, the pulse is very easy to feel.
  •  Try some musical improvisations: Give yourself a predetermined time, 1 or 2 minutes and improvise on different instruments. After each improvisation discusses your work and give yourself another goal for the next one (ex: you will play louder) It is awesome to notice all of what can be learned when playing music together.  Being able to control your movements so that you can play softly but fast is not easy for everyone.  A discussion about the appreciation or not of different sounds can, therefore, be very interesting afterward. Again, everything is a matter of instinct, in this activity, you develop this instinct even if sometimes it sounds a little cacophonous.
  •  It is now quite easy to find methods online to learn a simple instrument. The recorder, the ukulele, and the harmonica are inexpensive and simple instruments. These are the e-methods one can use but there are several others. 


Music is Fun


Madeline’s Ukulele easy lessons for kids

Piano (if you are lucky enough to have one at home)

this video lesson is also interesting

I have to say that If you browse the Internet for online music lessons for kids, there are plenty but seriously I can’t believe how boring or ”too enthusiastic” some of them are. I hope someone will come with an alternative…soon.


  • Just sing. Singing is a very rich activity and doesn’t involve a lot of resources. If you do not want to sing a cappella, put a song in the background and sing over it. That way, you will learn in tune singing or develop your different voices. If you are adventurers, maybe you will try Karaoke, In the meantime, you can practice with YouTube.

Personally, I love singing songs that my children enjoy, traditional or popular ones. Before sleeping it is a little pleasure that we all love. Moreover, my son is in Kindergarten now, and he loves to read the lyrics because they are usually redundant and predictable. It is, therefore, a good reading practice as well.

I love this moment of music with my family because without talking we feel an intense connection between us. I wish you to feel the same. However, if it is your desire, you can delegate another person to take care of the musical education of your children, but endeavor to do the most important part.

Click here to read the second article 



  1. This is an absolutely great resource. I am not a musician but I want my son to grow up with in-depth knowledge in music.

  2. Ravi says:

    You are right, i got my 4 year old a Harmonica and toy Xylo. Now i’ve to plan how to teach her 🙂

  3. robin rue says:

    my kids had maracas when they were little. We used to have music parades in the kitchen with them.

  4. Divyanka says:

    Music is something that refreshes your soul. It is because of people like you that we get to listen to some amazing talents!

  5. Thank you for the information. I love music to the point I always have music playing. However, I’m not a musician but I do want the grandkids to learn to love music. Your tips will help in that area.

  6. Jenny says:

    Give a kid a drum they will play it, even a saucepan they will play it! Music is everywhere and like anything the more they get exposed to it the more they will love it

  7. Amber Myers says:

    We listen to music a lot in this house. My kids have also tried the recorder before. It was loud, but they had fun with it.

  8. I love music and it is everywhere. I love how my kids play different objects at home…It’s so nice to see them explore music in different things.

  9. JD Obedoza says:

    The good thing is that my kid is so into music. She enjoys listening to most genre.

  10. Claudia Krusch says:

    I would definitely enroll my kids for classes. Music can be a powerful tool and kids love to play. I would definitely hire someone to teach my Son a skill I do not know.

  11. I love music, especially singing, and I never knew a way to introduce kids to the instrument part of it. This is such a great resource. Great post!

  12. Samantha says:

    I am not musically inclined at all so this is wonderful! I absolutely agree that real instruments are far better than the ones found in the toy section

  13. Momina Arif says:

    This is amazing. I love how you want to involve your children in creative things like music. I think parents have a lesson to take from here.

  14. Great tips! My son started violin when he was 6 and he enjoys it. None of us parents are musician but we play violin CD for him everyday to listen.

  15. Rosey says:

    I like the idea of the colored piano sheets, makes it fun to learn an instrument!

  16. Amanda Love says:

    I love music but I’m not a musician. My kids are pretty into music as well. I think these are lovely tips on how to teach kids and encourage them to play an instrument of their choice.

  17. Sharon Wu says:

    Okay I know this article is not about the pug but can I say how cute he is?! I have a pug too haha. Anyway, this post reminded me of my childhood days when my parents encouraged me to learn how to play new instruments. Music is great to get kids into and I really enjoyed the piano and flute! 🙂 xo, sharon

    • humbletriangleadmin says:

      hahah 🙂 it’s our old old pug he always lay down next to the person who plays music

  18. It is so nice to introduce young children to music at an early age. They will enjoy music when they grow up and maybe learn an instrument.

  19. Jennifer L says:

    My parents didn’t play instruments when I was growing up, but they got me involved in instruments in an early age.They would take me to lessons and really have music playing all day!

  20. Blair villanueva says:

    I remember my Mom used to play children’s song over and over, and she also sings with us, like having a karaoke. No wonder two on my siblings loves to sing 🙂 very helpful tips!

  21. Elizabeth O says:

    I totally get this post. I’m a teacher and yet my kids preferred to ask others questions I could fully help with. It’s a way of asserting their independence and letting us know they just want us to be their parents… first. 🙂

  22. Denice says:

    I am part of a church choir, from the time my daughter was in my womb she was already exposed to music. Now, I expose her to different genres of music by singing to her. Helps us bond even more because she has her favorites already. 🙂

  23. Amy Victoria says:

    Such a great thing to get kids into and to enjoy doing! I used to love music when I was younger and attempted a couple of instruments but nothing serious. I think because it wasn’t a huge thing in my family I didn’t continue unfortunately!