a peek inside the fishbowl

26 Nov, 2009

Christmas gift idea #2: The gift of music

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|parenting

We love music, but I have to confess…  we’re not very musically inclined here at the Fishbowl. We do, however, appreciate musical skillz and recognize the value of kids learning about music, and possibly picking it up as a hobby.

But as much as I love music I have to admit that I value quiet nearly as much. How to reconcile the two?


I know this is nearly impossible, but it can be done.

1) Avoid drum sets with cymbals and child-size bagpipes. (You think I’m kidding about that last one, don’t you? Well…)

2) I have written about this one before, but you should check out the Melody Harp. I’d recommend this for kids five and up. It’s a table-top harp and the sheet music slides underneath the strings, allowing kids to follow along. Not only does it sound really pretty (and quiet!) but children can play it right away and progress to recognizable music fairly quickly. Sarah’s had hers for a couple of years now and she still really likes to play with it. You can buy extra sheet music and a carry case for it too.

We love our harp, although I have to say that we have trouble tuning it because Mark and I are almost completely tone deaf.

3) Have you ever heard of the ocarina? I was sent one to try out awhile back (from this site). It’s really neat. (I bet you’ve seen one before but didn’t know what it was called.) An ocarina is a small wind instrument. Mine is ceramic, but clay ocarinas were played by the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas of South and Central America. It comes with instructions on how to play it as well as some music. It’s actually quite pretty, and can be worn around the neck.

4) In a similar vein there’s also the good ol’ recorder and kazoo. They fit into stockings fairly neatly too!

5) Bob LeDrew (whose opinion I trust on this matter) recommends something called the guitalele. I have to admit, this idea really appeals to me. I had a stretch of uke playing in fourth grade and the appeal of it has never left me.

What about you? Are you a musical family, or just thinking about introducing music to your family? Any suggestions you can offer for the rest of us?

9 Responses to "Christmas gift idea #2: The gift of music"

1 | Judy

November 26th, 2009 at 9:13 am


We sell the Ocarinas in the store and they are always hugely popular. Along with the bird whistles (although many grand dads need to show the kids how they work).

I love the idea of giving kids musical instruments, it lets them be creative on their own terms.

2 | Mom on the Go

November 26th, 2009 at 9:17 am


Thanks for the good ideas, Andrea. I think I’ll check out the harp. Reid is asking for a cello but 5 seems too young to me.

Others might want to buy shaker eggs, a slide whistle or rhythm sticks. They’re fun and not too loud and easy for small kids to make “music” with, though I’ve never seen music written for them. They’d be appropriate for 18 months and older kids who couldn’t yet follow a score.

Also, when Reid was maybe 2 or 3, my mom hemmed a rectangle of gauzy, irridescent fabric that Reid fluttered and tossed as she danced to music. It still gets pulled out and it is completely quiet.

3 | Alison in Ottawa

November 26th, 2009 at 11:08 am


I suggest CDs with stories and classical music… the series by Susan Hammond is very good. Some of her CDs- Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Mozart’s Magic Fantasy and Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery. I grew up in a house with classical music playing 75% of the time so most popular pieces are familar to me, and relaxing to listen to, I try to put it on in the car with my 7 and 4 year old girls.

We have gone to some of the children’s NAC concert series for the last 3 years and they have been mostly good… I am happy to be at the Family Adventures Level now as last year for the Kinderconcerts there were so many poorly behaved children (sitting on the mats not close to their parents) that kids and adults sitting in the chairs at the back section could not even hear the performers…. It is odd that the NAC doesn’t have staff asking the children to be more quiet but worse that people don’t remove their children from a performance when they are not behaving (to be clear, I am talking about kids in the 5 plus range, not smaller children where control of behvaiour can be much more challenging).. I much prefer the Family Adventures where parents sit beside their children.

4 | Stacey

November 26th, 2009 at 11:32 am


Harmonicas are remarkably un-offensive to parental ears. There is a nice harmony sound, no matter what “notes” are played. You can pick them up fairly inexpensively as well. Lee Valley has one with a how-to book for older kids. Also, they fit nicely into stockings.

5 | BeachMama

November 26th, 2009 at 11:34 am


LOL, we have so much music in our house, from the real instruments (Piano, cello, flute, recorders, 3 Guitars) to the play ones (drums, cymbals, tambourines, maracas…) that I really wouldn’t know what it would be like to live in a truly quiet house. J wants to play the drums and we are thinking it would be a great idea, since he can already hold a beat. And well, Apple has a wide variety to choose from so we will see where it takes her.

6 | Ange

November 26th, 2009 at 11:51 am


My son requested a guitar for his birthday – so we bought him one and signed him up for lessons (he’s 7). He’s been going since May and is totally enamored of it. That said – we won’t be doing anything musical this Christmas since he is already in lessons and has the instrument – but we did a lot of talking before actually buying an instrument as a present to make sure he really did want to learn and it wasn’t just a phase.

6 months on he is still excited about every lesson and eager to show off what he’s learning – so hopefully that won’t lessen with time!

7 | Shannon

November 26th, 2009 at 12:52 pm


Oh my goodness!! BAGPIPES!! Save me!!

Neither my husband or are are musically inclined in any way so it will be a challenge when DS/DD get older, we’ll have to find ways to nurture the music part of life. We are both sporty people so that’s our main focus simply due to our natural interests, rather than doing things in the arts categories. I do know that though and plan on making an effort to do more artsy activities.

8 | Hillary

November 26th, 2009 at 6:53 pm


You and your girls enjoy making crafts and strive to eat healthily (is that a word?), what about combining music, crafts, and healthy eating to do something like this:


Or this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmrWHJHFw20 (starts at about 4o seconds)

Or this:

9 | andrea

November 26th, 2009 at 8:04 pm


BeachMama: if you ever want to come over for a quiet coffee you are more than welcome.

Hillary: OMG! Carrots!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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