My husband is a super talented musician. He picked up his first guitar at age nine and within months had outstripped his teacher in terms of capability. One summer in college he lived with a family in a farmhouse in the Midwest and interned with a noted harp maker. The harp he handcrafted that year still sits in the corner of our nursery today. When I met him he was working in a bagpipe store and was prolific with all the merchandise. He plays well over a dozen instruments, from whistles to drums to sitars. He is astoundingly talented.
Me, I’m a pretty good singer. Not to brag, but I am renowned as being the best singer in both my car and my shower. So, you know, there’s that.
My 18-month old definitely takes after her dad when it comes to musicality. Ever since she could crawl, she’s insisted on clambering up on his lap and helping him pluck the strings on his guitar. She’ll toddle by the harp and drag her fingers along the strings leaving music in her wake. And the kid can keep a beat! My husband recently splurged on a 3-piece drum kit for kids and she cheerily bangs along on it way more rhythmically than I can. I credit her keen interest in music with some fantastic toys we bought her during her infancy and early toddlerdom. If you’d like to foster creativity and love of music in your little one, these are my top five toy recommendations:
My sister bought this for my daughter’s first Christmas when Eisley was just eight weeks old. I thought she was out of her everloving mind. Surely my daughter would be at least thirty before she could master something with this many bells and whistles. But it became a favorite toy remarkably quickly. My husband discovered we could take the legs out and just lay the musical tabletop right down on the ground. She spent hours of tummy time parked near this thing, flailing her little uncoordinated arms towards it. When she learned how to crawl and then sit she would navigate over to it and experiment with its 15 activities and 40+ songs and melodies. As she got taller and started learning how to walk, we put the legs back on: it helped encourage her mobility as well as her musicality, as she scooted it all over the house and used it for balance in her early walking days.
My daughter was on the move early! She was cruising at 6 months and walking at 9 months which meant I was spending a lot of my day chasing after my busy little bee. I quickly realized I was going to need something new to engage her that would keep her in one spot every now and again, if for no other reason than I needed a break! This simple piano did the trick perfectly. It’s bright, primary colors were attention grabbing, and its four keys were just the right amount of notes to keep her interest without overwhelming her. Whether she was poking gently at the keys to pick out a discordant tune, or merrily bashing the keyboard to make a ton of joyful noise, it was definitely a great starter instrument. It’s super durable which is important, because even nine months later it’s still one of her favorite toys.
I originally purchased one of these as a gift for a friend’s one-year-old, but once the package arrived my then 10-month old became completely obsessed with it. I wound up having to order another one for the birthday boy because Eisley wouldn’t let this toy out of her sight! Though she didn’t have the coordination to hit it with the accompanying sticks, she did enjoy thumping away on it like a bongo. She also discovered that the ridged sides made some pretty excellent noises when she dragged the sticks along the side to create a little hoedown washboard music feel. These days she’s more interested in her big girl drum kit, but this drum hasn’t gone by the wayside: yesterday, I caught her trying to teach her stuffed monkey how to play.
This music box for the 21st century is very aptly named, as it allows your little one to begin to understand the fundamental elements of composition. Five faces on this six-sided cube contain an individual instrument – a harp, a French horn, a piano, a flute, and a violin. When you press each side in, the accompanying instrument plays a little piece of music. The final side features the full orchestra all playing together. The best part is your baby can play each side simultaneously in a multitude of combinations so she can start to figure out how bits and pieces of music fit together into a larger composition. The clean lines and bright, eye-catching colors of this toy will definitely draw your baby’s attention, but it will be the endless music she can make with it that will make it a beloved addition to her toy box.
Homemade Percussive Shakers
Believe it or not, you can put together a great musical instrument with very little effort with items you already have around your house. My husband noticed my daughter had a tendency to pilfer spices off the counter while I was cooking and shake them around, swiveling her hips and laughing as she danced to the percussive sound. So he decided to construct his own interpretation of wooden egg shakers on the fly. He scrounged in the cabinet until he found two tiny Tupperware containers used for things like salad dressing and filled them about halfway with dry white rice from our pantry. He taped the lids down securely for good measure then let her have at it. Now we can often find her by listening to the sounds of frantic rice shaking echo throughout the house, and I never have to worry about spice blends going missing again. Not the DIY type? You can always purchase a set of kid-friendly maracas to get that same sense of percussion and fun.