Around the World Through Music

Sound the trumpets!! In this case the tubas and wacky key-tars! ⁠I’m going to share with you an excerpt from my new book, out now on Chronicle Books called Family Field Trip.

Music has been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. As a child, I would listen to Marlo Thomas and Friends’ Free to Be You and Me on vinyl, flipping the record over and over and over. That record introduced the idea that girls can do anything boys can do and without missing a beat, boys can also do anything girls can do. It was gender equality and comfort through songs and poetry. When I’d earn a little allowance, I’d walk to the nearby drugstore and buy a few 45s. My mom would take me to music and dance events all the time. We saw B.B. King, a traveling performance by a Chinese opera troupe, a Bollywood dance with a live band, The Nutcracker ballet, and more. I’m so grateful that my mom exposed me to such a wide range of music, and I’ve continued the same tradition with my own son.

You don’t have to have musical abilities to enjoy and participate in music with your kid. No matter how you are introducing music to children, whether taking them to see live music performances, tuning into the radio, or just having an impromptu dance party in your living room, music is vital to their young lives. Aside from the fun that music brings, it’s a great tool to help children memorize ideas and facts and also work the brain, which makes the brain stronger. Music is also a wonderful tool to help children wind down and relax. In this section, we’ll discuss easy ways you can listen to and play music with your child.


When my son was a baby, we kept a basket
of musical instruments—some bought, some homemade—in our living room that he could crawl over to and play with. My husband and I would be in his makeshift backup band, playing with him and helping him foster a sense of rhythm and melody. Eventually, he could connect which instruments made which sound, and how they played or didn’t play together. This cause-and-effect approach helped him develop his ear for sounds.

There are lots of fun ways to incorporate music into your child’s everyday life. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Set up a musical basket, box, or corner in your home and fill it with small instruments. Let your child select an instrument to play.
  • Listen to music in the car on the way to school or when running errands. Mix it up with jazz, rock, classical, folk, pop, and other genres.
  • Put on fun, upbeat music while you’re cleaning the house as a family.
  • When you’re cooking an international meal, put on music from that country.
  • Plan a family dance party, and let your child make the playlist.
  • Listen to calming music during bath time and before bed.



As you enjoy music with your child, be sure to include songs from around the world. Listening to international music and studying the instruments that are played in different countries is a wonderful way to explore the world from home. Local libraries often have CDs cataloged by country of origin, and music streaming services provide plenty of options for listening to international music. With so many varieties of instruments and genres of music available, it can be a lot to explore. Take it slow, and find small, teachable moments as you’re listening to and enjoying music together. For example, as you discuss the different instruments from around the world, I recommend going online to find video clips or songs that highlight individual instrument sounds. If you hear a sitar, for instance, use it as a chance to watch a short video on how the sitar is played. Or if you’re listening to music that involves a lot of drums, find a video or an audio track that demonstrates different drum sounds.


Making instruments at home is a great way to get children excited about music. Here are some simple instruments you can make with your kids:

Guitar: Use an empty tissue box and stretch rubber bands around the center of the box to create the strings.

Shaker: Fill an empty plastic Easter egg with rice.

Small drum: Use an old cookie tin, butter tub, soup can, or metal bowl flipped upside down.

Rainstick: Use a cardboard mailing tube or paper towel tube and seal off one end. Fill it with dried beans and rice, and then seal the other end. Stick several straightened paper clips through the tube at various spots of your choice. Place tape over the paper clips so that they don’t fall out or your child doesn’t pull them out. Flip slowly to allow the beans and rice to trickle over the paper clips, creating a rainfall sound. Speed up the flipping of the tube to create a faster “downpour.”

Tambourine: Pour beans on top of a paper plate, then place another paper plate face down on top. Staple the plates together around the edges to capture the beans inside. For an added touch, you can staple or tape small jingle bells to the outside.


“One thing we do to cultivate a love for music is make ‘jingles’
for things, we need to do around the house. It is a really neat distraction trick that works great to get your little one focused on the task at hand, while also fostering a love for music and composition. This trick works in a million ways and not only gets your children to follow your simple requests but also helps you not lose your mind when they flip out about putting their shoes on the right feet. The best part is when you see it help their music skills and they make up their own adorable songs. This activity helps your child describe what is happening in the world around them and incorporate melody and meter to make songs of their own.”

—ANNIE HART is a member of the band Au Revoir Simone. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband Doug and their two children. You can find Annie on Instagram: @anniehartforsure.

Wherever you are in your music journey with your children, I hope that it transports you around the world. – Erin

Illustration from Family Field Trip by George Wylesol.