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Children - The Value Of Music

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

The second great appeal to the imagination of children is that made by music. It is a matter of common comment that even the youngest little ones are enchanted by the harmony of songs, and will listen for hours to music, good, bad, or indifferent, if they have the chance. Once in so often one hears the story of the little tot who strayed away from home following the seduction of a hurdy-gurdy, a street-band, or the glorious melody of a street parade, and who was later picked up miles from home, utterly lost. Here is plainly the best kind of material for developing the imaginative faculties.

It is for this reason that the kindergarten workers have given so large a place to both vocal and instrumental music in their program of education for young children. The songs they use are accompanied by action and plays of one sort and an-other, dances, games, or pantomime. In all of these the child takes part, unconsciously adapting the rhythm of his body to that suggested by the song. He learns to make the balance of his position harmonize with the phrasing in the melody, all unconscious of what he is doing.

Not only does the music appeal to his senses, in this fashion, but it also suggests far wider matters. The child learns to hear the beat of the horse's hoofs in the sound of the instrument, and in the process he begins to invent stories for himself, explanations which start from the melody and wind up in the realm of faery with which his stories have already made him familiar. He is exercising the faculties of imagination which offer the greatest hope of mental growth.

A wise mother will make the fullest use of modern aids in stimulating this side of her child's nature. If there is a reproducing machine of any sort in the house, she will endeavor to have the child enjoy it as often and as long as possible. She will endeavor to guide his interest away from the gaudy and meretricious popular music, and will give him the opportunity to become familiar with the great music of the world, choosing themes in accordance with his growing capacity to enjoy them. From the simple ballad-music, the familiar folk-songs and dances, she will pass by regular degrees to more complicated music, taking the single precaution of never continuing too long at a single time to strain the attention of the child. A woman of large means, who was especially desirous of cultivating the musical interests of her Raising Children, was in the habit of having them brought in to concerts to hear a special artist or a special composition which she had reason to believe might appeal to them. She would never let them stay for the entire concert if they showed the least sign of fatigue, for, as she reasoned, too long continued attention might well undo the good which she aimed at accomplishing. Fortunately, it is not necessary to hear the actual concert to do the same thing for children whose homes are at a distance from the musical centers of the world. Science has made possible a new and valuable form of sell-education.

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