How to bond with your grandchildren through music

Music is a universal medium that expresses emotions and has the potential to connect people of all generations in profound ways. It is a powerful medium for uplifting and energising people, and a simple yet effective way for generations to share an emotional and sensory journey together.

Music can be shared in many different ways and contexts – festivals, birthdays, concerts, dancing – just to name a few. So, next time you’re looking for activities to share with your grandchildren, why not share your love of music? Here are tips and activities to help you use music to deepen your connection with family.

The variety of music can bring generations together

Few people, if any, can truly claim they dislike all music, simply because music comes in so many forms and genres. The endless variety makes it a wonderful medium for shared experiences and strengthening relationships. Music festivals, for example, may include everything from jazz, rock, country, and bluegrass, to gospel, folk, blues, and hip-hop. The variety of music means there’s something to cater to every taste, and you’re bound to find something both you and your grandchildren love.

Similarly, music tastes can span generations. There are people of all ages who enjoy classical music. Baby boomers can find themselves enjoying rap and hip-hop, while young teenagers are discovering and loving The Beatles¹. Grandparents can introduce their favourites to the grandchildren and a mutual enjoyment of new genres can deepen connections. The universality and timelessness of music and its cross-generational appeal makes it the perfect medium and activity for spending time together.

Music is a great equaliser

While being a musical prodigy certainly won’t hurt (and will definitely impress your grandkids), you don’t need musical ability to share your appreciation. Anyone can dance to music and enjoy music together, regardless of age, education or skill. This makes music a great equaliser for people of all ages. For example, young children can sing a nursery rhyme or Happy Birthday just as well as their grandparents can.

Sharing music increases bonding

Sharing music is a great starting point for sharing your life stories and talking about experiences. For example, a particular song can have a special meaning for someone, and you can use the song to start sharing the associated life experience. Children love hearing stories about their parents and grandparents, and music makes the perfect platform for a little storytelling, which can lead to better cross-generational understanding and stronger relationships².

Research shows³ ‘synching up’ to others through music, for example, by keeping a beat or singing harmonies, increases positive feelings towards the person we are synchronising with. This concept leads to an improvement in both cooperation and trust.

8 Tips for sharing music with grandchildren

There are countless ways to share and enjoy music with your grandchildren, and you’ll probably have thought of many of your own. These are a few tips to get you started.

1. Music appreciation outings

Make a point of organising ‘music appreciation outings’ with the whole family or with your grandchildren. Attend classical concerts and performances, pop music concerts, and musical theatre performances to expand your horizons and expose both generations to new genres. Afterwards, share your opinion and experience of the music with your grandkids, and encourage them to share their opinions, too.

2. Swap and share playlists

There’s nothing like listening to music on old-fashioned vinyl records, and the simplicity of playing a cassette tape or CD is understandably attractive to older generations. But digital players and streaming services sure make is easy to share playlists with your grandchildren, and they’re a lot easier to use than you’d think. You can ‘follow’ your grandkids online, listen to what they’re listening to, and invite them to sample your personal favourites. You can discover new common ground and find out more about everyone’s preferences. If you have an iPhone and use iTunes or Apple Music, there are a number of fairly easy ways to share playlists with your family and friends, and many guides available on the Internet⁴.

3. Take music lessons

Another way to share music experiences and learn more about each other’s tastes is to take music lessons together. Instruments such as guitar, piano, and flute are popular across all generations. Learning a new instrument can support brain development and reduce the risk of dementia⁵.

4. Compose your own music

If you can read and write music, why not spend an afternoon composing a song with your grandkids? Guide the grandchildren along as they come up with a melody and lyrics. You can even hold a short concert for their parents once you are done. If you don’t read music, you can still make up a song by ear and write down some funny or soulful lyrics for a new song.

5. Keep an open mind

Keep an open mind to new and different genres of music as you explore musical experiences with your grandchildren. Rap and heavy metal may not be your music of choice, but regardless of your age, you can always find things to like about a genre if you take time to explore it. “There is no guarantee you are going to like your grandchildren’s music,” says Lilian Carson, a doctor of social welfare and author of The Essential Grandparent, “but it is an entry into their world, and if we enter their world, we have a better chance of connecting with them.”2

6. Start young

Children can enjoy music from an early age, and many love all kinds of music. Encourage them to be more aware of different styles of music by exposing them to various genres from an early age. Keep it light-hearted and fun, and switch it up if you notice they’re getting bored. Research shows⁶ when children start to play music at a young age, their brains develop to enable them to hear sounds they would not otherwise be able to hear. This helps them to develop ‘neurophysiological distinction’ that will aid them with literacy as well, leading to improved academic results overall.

7. Embrace musical involvement in the family

Find ways to embrace music and integrate it into your gatherings. For example, print out lyrics of everyone’s favourite songs and hold duets or sing-a-longs. By involving music in more activities, you can encourage confidence and curiosity in your grandkids, as well as create more enjoyable (and entertaining) family gatherings.

8. Share across distance

If you live far away from your grandchildren, music can be a great way to make connections across physical distances. Send them a CD or tape of your favourites, or if you are tech-savvy, send them digital music files through email or through document-sharing platforms. Ask them to do the same with their favourites, so you can discuss which songs you like.

Bonding with music

Music is a powerful influence throughout most people’s lives; it brings people together, evokes emotion and promotes happiness and relaxation⁷. What’s more, music traverses all age groups, so it can be a wonderful way to bond between generations. So, next time you’re with your grandkids – why not put some records on, dust off the piano or sing some karaoke and let music bring your family together.