Classical Music for Kids

Exposing children to classical music can benefit them in many ways. By listening to music, attending concerts, making music as a family, and learning to play an instrument, children can experience artistic, creative, cultural, social, and emotional benefits. These activities strengthen connections in the brain, especially during the process of learning how to play an instrument. While these secondary benefits of music are good, we must remember that music itself is a valuable experience, and that the primary benefit of music is enjoyment.

When Should I Expose My Child to Music?

There is no right or wrong age to start exposing kids to music, but the earlier a child experiences something and is a normal part of their life, the more likely they will continue to enjoy it later in life. For babies and toddlers, I recommend that you try many different pieces of music and see what your child responds to most positively. Parents should also make music a participatory experience, by singing, clapping, and playing along to music with their child. School age children begin to express their own musical preferences, and will begin to tell you what they like or dislike. At this age children should be given opportunities to try different musical instruments, and some children may even be ready for musical instruction at this age. As children get older they are able to participate in musical experiences more often and in more depth, and should be encouraged to do so.

Classical Music Recommendations for Kids

I have selected a wide range of musical pieces that children should enjoy, and have chosen pieces that represent the wide variety of musical expression, from slow to fast, happy to sad, and old to modern. Some are obvious and traditional choices, but I have also selected some less common choices, because children are more open to different types of music than adults are, and there is no reason for music to be too “childish” or “dumbed down.” While shorter pieces may be appropriate for younger children, as they get older and their attention span gets longer, they will be able to appreciate longer works of music.

Fantasia – The classic Disney movie which pairs pieces of classical music with animation. A great introduction to classical music, although the last segment can be scary for younger children.

Fantasia 2000 – The sequel to the original Fantasia movie, with new music and animations.

Prokofiev – Peter and the Wolf
  • A story told with music and narration about a young boy's encounter with a wolf.
Benjamin Britten – The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
  • A set of theme and variations that show of the different instruments and sections of the orchestra.
Camille Saint-Saëns – Carnival of the Animals
  • A light-hearted piece where different animals of depicted musically in each movement.
John Williams – The music from Star Wars and Indiana Jones 

Mozart – Overture to the Marriage of Figaro

Grieg – In the Hall of the Mountain King (from Peer Gynt)

Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker Suite
  • While the suite consists of highlights from the full ballet The Nutcracker, we also recommend watching a performance of the full ballet, either live or on video.
Holst – Mars, and Jupiter, from The Planets 

Mozart – Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Beethoven – Piano Sonata no. 14 (“Moonlight Sonata”)

Beethoven – Für Elise

Debussy – Claire de lune

Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition

Mussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain

Bizet – Carmen Suites no. 1 and no. 2

Johann Strauss II – The Blue Danube

Stravinsky – Firebird Suite

Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue

Scott Joplin – The Entertainer, and Maple Leaf Rag
  • While not strictly classical pieces, these ragtime pieces have good melodies and exciting rhythms.
Aaron Copland – Hoe-Down from Rodeo 

Mozart – Symphony No. 40

Beethoven – Symphonies 3, 5, 6, 7, and 9

Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E-minor

Khachaturian – Sabre Dance

Delibes – Flower Duet

Holst – St. Paul's Suite

Smetana – The Moldau

Schubert – Symphony No. 8 “Unfinished”

Dvořák Symphony No. 9

Rimsky-Korsakov – Scheherazade

Ralph Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Bartok – Concerto for Orchestra

Leoš Janáček – Sinfonietta

Respighi – Pines of Rome

Related Articles: The Best Symphonies, 11 Great Overtures, 10 Great Ballet Scores

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