As parents, we all want to provide our kids with the best possible experiences. That’s part of why we take them to activities, teach them new skills, and encourage them to play and explore. Seeing them actively engaging with new things is fun and exhilarating, and helps us feel we’re succeeding as parents.

That’s part of why taking children to music class is so fulfilling. Seeing them interact with the music, even in small ways, is a rewarding experience.

But does that mean that when your child sits silently in class, seeming to pay no attention at all, they’re not listening or learning? On the contrary!

Small children are listening and learning machines. Even when they appear to be doing something else, they’re paying attention to what’s going on around them and learning from it.

That’s why surrounding your child with music–at home and in class–is such a powerful thing to do. Kids are learning rhythm, different tonalities, and social behaviors just by being around us as we interact with music.

They’re also learning how to move their own bodies along with it. As children absorb the patterns of music, they begin to move on their own, sometimes on the microbeat (little beat) or the macrobeat (big beat). This is why we don’t recommend moving your child’s body along with the rhythm for them–it can interfere with their own process of learning how to do that for themselves.

Sometimes it can feel harder to let the process of learning happen for your child rather than trying to move it along, and that’s okay too. We all want what’s best for our children, and often that means actively, consciously teaching them. But in the case of musical learning early in life, what kids learn by absorption and observation is often far more sophisticated than we realize.

Playing the Music Together recording at home, listening to other music, singing for your own enjoyment, making eye contact as you sing and dance–these are all things that help your children learn music through their own natural abilities, at their own pace.

So next time you feel the urge to teach, remember that everything you do when it comes to music is teaching your children. All your singing, all your dancing, and all your enjoyment is contagious. Let them feel it and enjoy it too, even if they’re quiet as they do. Before you know it, they’ll be showing you how much they love music as well!