Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kids and Classical Music :: Part II :: Ideas for Young Children

Before you read here, check out Part I - my thoughts on Kids and Classical Music

This "mini series" is a collection of ideas on ways to expose children to classical music and to increase their appreciation for it along the way.   It's not about learning an instrument, music theory, or composition.  It's just about enjoyment.  And I enjoy this topic so much, I thought I'd share some of what we do in our home with you!

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Two years ago, when the boys were 4 and 5, I started to do some intentional exposure to classical music, meaning going beyond just having something playing in the background.  

Here's some of what we used...
Resources/Ideas for getting young kids started on classical music:

(story by Paul Tripp)

This is a sweet story about a tuba who wants to be more than just the "oom-pah-ing" bass line in the orchestra.  If you Google it, all sorts of results come up...  My favorite version is the 1947 cartoon version by George Pal. 
Tubby the Tuba, 1947 cartoon on Youtube
Tubby the Tuba, book and CD set (same text as the cartoon)

Tubby the Tube, story narrated by Danny Kaye (isn't he one of the best story tellers!?!)
Tubby the Tube - LIVE performance with the Boston Pops, Julia Child is the narrator!   I love this recording, because kids get to see real people playing the same instruments they've "met" in the cartoon.  (has a slightly different text)
More on tubas:
How it's Made: Tubas
Tuba Concerto by Ralph Vaughn Williams - just for some exposure to a another piece written specifically for tuba!

by Sergei Prokofiev

Story and music tell the story of Peter who helps capture a wolf in the forest.  Each character is represented by a different instrument of the orchestra.
* I used this recording of the story, narrated by David Bowie. It's one of many different tracks on the disc, Child's Celebration of Classical Music.  (note: there is a track on here with a Danny Kaye song Tubby the Tuba - same story, but it's not the full narration mentioned above.)

* Peter and the Wolf, a picture book illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak.  We got this from our library.

* This picture book and recording also look nice, but I have not seen it in person:  Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, with fully orchestrated and narrated CD.  I especially like the preview pages which show the animals and the instruments that represent them.  

* Peter and the Wolf Ballet - Royal Ballet School.   I let the kids watch this version on Youtube.  It's presented in 4 parts. The link here is to Part 1, and from there you can easily find 2, 3, and 4.

by Camille Saint-Saens

Saint-Saens portrayed several animals through short musical pieces.  Many recordings of these pieces are accompanied by poems, the first were by poet Ogden Nash.  

The Carnival of the Animals, (Book and CD) Poems by Jack Prelutsky.  We were able to get this book and recording from our library.  We read each poem, and then listened to the corresponding tracks - poem and music.  It's fun to listen for things like the lions roaring, the elephants stomping around, donkey's braying, and the fossils clanking about.

* This link is to a full recording of the music accompanied by still pictures on Youtube.  (no poems)
* I have not heard this recording, but here's one with the Ogden Nash poems, narrated by 14 well known TV/movie personalities. 

(Disney Production)

What a fun way to "see" how music can tell a story!  

My kids have watched the VHS version of this that was left over from my own childhood.  I know that a special edition came out in 2000 with additional material - I have not seen it, so I can't comment on the "new" stuff.  I don't have a link to this, but check the library!

(by Benjamin Britten)

This piece of music was written by Britten to accompany an educational film about the orchestra.  It's based on a theme that was written by compose Henry Purcell and features different instruments and sections of the orchestra at different points. I've listened to many different versions of this on Youtube, and have decided to link to these...

* This version is a great musical and visual recording.  The narration though is not the original, but instead consists of new poems written for this particular performance at the PROMS at Royal Albert Hall, London. (skip intro if you want, the actual performance starts around the five-minute mark.) Look for the second half of the performance on the right-hand menu.

* This version does not have a great picture, and the sound and picture aren't quite in sync.  However, it's one of my favorite Youtube recordings because the conductor, Michael Tilson Thomas, looks like he's having so much fun and his dynamic personality really adds to the performance.  I like for the kids to see videos of conductors and performers enjoying themselves and the music - visual proof that classical music is not dull and boring! (Like the above version, it's also in two parts.

Note: I have not heard this recording aside from samples on Amazon, but I see that there is a recording that includes Peter and the Wolf, The Carnival of the Animals, and The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra - all conducted (and narrated?) by Leonard Bernstein.

by William Lach


This is another book/cd combo we were able to find at our local library.  Can You Hear It? contains several works of art and questions that help the reader find various items in the artwork. The tracks on the CD correspond to the paintings and your encouraged to "find" the same items you found in the pictures in the music.  


Finally, we took the boys to a few live performances that year. Two were outdoor philharmonic concerts and the other was the opera Amahl and the Night Visitors.  I highly recommend this opera, and wrote as much in this post from last November.  If you're interested in checking out Amahl but can't get to a performance, you can also look for it on-line.  It was originally written for television, and you can watch that original performance here.  It includes a lovely introduction by the composer, Gian Carlo Menotti.  But it is a recording from the 50s, so the audio/video quality is probably not what today's children are used to :) There are many other performances of the opera on Youtube, but I wasn't able to choose one to link to... They are mostly mediocre "home videos" of community performances; You'll have to check them out for yourself.  (I recommend acquainting children with the story and some of the music before viewing the opera - either live or on screen - so that even if they can't understand a particular singer, they know what is being sung.)

* * * * * *

I know, I can be long-winded, but I hope that something in there is helpful for a family searching for engaging ways to introduce classical music to younger children.  In the next part, I will include some of what we've been using last year and this year as the kids get a little "older."

What resources have you used to bring classical music to your young kiddos??  


  1. Love Tubby the Tuba from my own childhood!!! Have mourned the loss of it for years, never thought of checking youtube! Sending the link to my brother too, he was even more obsessed with that record than I was. Lots for me to check out here:) A favourite of my husband's (and after years of searching I finally found a DVD copy) is Danny's Kaye directing the Philharmonic Orchestra. excellent!! And do musicals count? A little 'irreverent' but the kids love Jon English in The Pirates of Penzance.

    1. I know what you mean about Tubby the Tuba - Isn't it so fun to "find" stuff from your childhood and get to share them with your kids?!?
      I'm not familiar with the Jon English Pirates of Penzance - but I think kids that like a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta are on the right track!

  2. Ah, this is so good. I hope I can glean a few ideas from here. Or just have you teach my kids?? Maybe?

    1. Id be happy to help out! Wouldn't it be fun to meet up for an outdoor concert and picnic? I'll try to keep that in mind for next summer!

  3. We began intentionally exposing ourselves to more classical music a few years ago. I recently listened to an audio by Andrew Pudewa about music and the brain, very eye opening. Since then we really turned up the classical music learning around here. We also enjoy a community orchestra and live performances every chance we get.

    1. I've heard about that talk from Andrew Pudewa, but I haven't listened to it. Maybe I'll check into it!

  4. I agree with Mary! Thanks for posting this! I love when you recommend books!

  5. These things are useful. I accidentally had my kids watch a very dark version of Peter and the Wolf half a year ago. But I guess it made an impression because they keep eagerly asking to watch it again.

    1. I think I've heard about that but haven't seen it. Was it any good??

    2. It was this version: (The 2006 version)

      I think the kids liked the scariness of the wolf. I found the bullying Peter had to experience sad and disturbing. But the kids didn't seem to mind. My oldest (who we adopted at 3 and a half) remembers hearing about scary stuff from the other kids he was in a previous foster home with and I don't think the cruelty shocked him as much as it might for kids who don't really understand there is bad in the world. I think that he liked that Peter triumphed even though people were mean to him at the beginning.

      I would choose a different version in the future. But the kids do keep asking to watch it again and I don't think it had a negative influence on them. Fairy tales are traditionally somewhat dark.


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