Parenting can be tough, especially at this time of year when many of us in Australia are stuck indoors more than we’d like. It’s tempting to shove your offspring in front of ABC Kids (I know I did). But there are alternatives.
My little one is almost three years old, and it’s fascinating to see how he responds to music – any music. He’ll jump, dance, sweat and keep busy for what feels like hours.
And it turns out, of course, that there are plenty of classical music tracks that push those buttons for him and, as he expands his imagination, open up a world of stories and scenes in his head.
But let’s start with something more basic. By the way, I’ve created a Spotify playlist of these suggestions for you, but of course that’s music available in many forms and on many platforms.
Get ready to wiggle
Dance. Children love to dance. And there are so many choices in the classic world that get the body moving, whether you’re a toddler or not.
An obvious place to start is ballet. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker was written with family listening in mind. “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” or “The Waltz of the Flowers” could be a good starting point.
If you prefer your ballet more John Wayne than Margot Fonteyn, American composer Aaron Copland has written some cowboy ballets that might get your kids dancing. The “Hoe-Down” of his Rodeo is a good one.
And even away from the world of ballet, there are plenty of pieces that could be foot-tapping. The Rondo alla Turca is the end of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 and is great fun. He even appears in an episode of a popular Australian cartoon (the one with the blue heel…).
Children love nature and animals, and there are plenty of classical music tracks that will take young minds on wonderful journeys.
“Vltava” from Smetana (from My Vlast) talks about the vast river that runs through Prague. But it could be any river.
Or what about the beach? Brenda Gifford, composer of Yuin Barju (‘footprints’) is about the joy of seeing your footprints on a pristine beach on the south coast of New South Wales.
Petals at dawn
Your kids might love to hear music on something as small and delicate as a bird. There are so many pieces about birds, or that imitate birds. You can hear cuckoos in the slow movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, his “Pastoral” Symphony. Or flowers. Amy Beach’s “From Grandmother’s Garden” depicts flowers in full bloom in the New England spring.
You could try music for the children in your life that describes something big and spectacular. by Ravel Daphnis and Chloe has a magical moment that takes you to a beautiful sunrise.
Maybe the little people in your life already have ideas that go beyond our own world. Holst’s The planets is an orchestral suite that is a whimsical, breathtaking and uplifting tour around the solar system and the Roman gods who give their names to the planets.
Nardi Simpson stars and birds tells a Yuwaalaraay story about the creation of the Southern Cross.
And, on the other side of the world, the Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds rivers of light is all about the northern lights, the aurora borealis. Share this with the young people in your life, and they will see vast curtains of color and light hanging in the sky.
Russell Torrance presents Classic Breakfast on ABC Classic (Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.).