“I didn’t grow up with the arts” a young mom named Shelley confided over coffee some years ago.  “Now I wish I had.  I’d like to give my kids some exposure – but I’m not really sure where to start.”

Shelley didn’t come to me for advice because of my music or art degree (I have neither), but just because I’m a megamom with a track record.  Maybe she’d noticed my kids da-da-da-da-ing along with Beethoven’s Fifth.  Or rehearsing lines from Shakespeare.  Or studying a book of Chagall.  Maybe she was impressed that they seemed comfortable and unembarrassed – as though Mozart was as cool as Miley.

And Shelley’s hunch is right – I have had a lot to do with my kids’ love of the arts.  But she’d probably be surprised to know I started out feeling pretty inadequate, asking the same questions she’s asking now.   

Then again, looking at my kids, how could she have known I grew up in a home where country music and black velvet paintings were the rule?  That my mom was too exhausted from eking out a living to do much more than laundry on the weekend?  That as a kid, I thought concerts and museums were only for school field trips?

But as a young mother, I knew I was in a position to change all that for my own kids.  And I knew from my Montessori training that the best time to introduce my kids to anything was the early years – when all the windows of opportunity were wide open.

All this by way of saying – It’s never too early to turn your kids on to the arts, and it’s never too late for you!

Music

For nearly two decades, researchers have been investigating “The Mozart Effect” – which links children listening to classical music with increased intelligence.  While there is no final word on the matter, as a mom who’s learned to choose classical, I can say it’s been a rich addition to our home life and broadened my children’s interest in all kinds of music.

At Home

Try a little Mozart in the morning, a little Brahms at night.  You’ll find that a background of calm classical music will even out the tone at those cranky times of day – like when you’re getting dinner ready.  (I especially recommend harp concertos – remember how David soothed King Saul?).  If you’ve always thought of classical music as something for older folks, you’ll be surprised at how even the youngest family members will prick up their ears at the first strains. 

If you’re not sure where to start, check the music store’s children’s section for many new classical CDs featuring works which hold the most kid appeal.  There are even opera selections bundled especially with children in mind.

An added blessing for believing parents – some of the most inspired classical works are part of our Christian heritage.  Handel’s Messiah, for example, is a major work (3 CDs) consisting solely of prophecies about Jesus and scriptures from his life, death, and resurrection.  Listening to these verses set to rich music and sung by the world’s greatest voices can be a powerful reinforcement of your family’s faith – especially at Christmas and Easter.

Out and About

Check your local symphony box office for concerts aimed at children – sometimes called Lollipop Concerts.  These feature short, compelling works that paint a picture or tell a story, often with commentary to help reveal what to listen for.