The Business of Classical Music Concerts – How to Keep Babies and Toddlers Quiet and Interested

Parents who love music want to expose their children to the joy of these beautiful sounds as soon as possible. Introducing children to music as early as possible is great for their overall personal growth and personal development. However, there is often a stigma associated with taking a young child to a classical music concert. Also, it is often quite a business to get a young child to sit still for long periods of time, and this in turn can cause a fair amount of stress to both the parent and to the audience.

I was at a music concert that had been organised specifically for parents and their young children, i.e., for toddlers and babies. Sitting at the edge of the aisle at the back of the auditorium I had a really clear view of what parents and children were doing throughout the concert.

Toddlers actually need sounds to be at a stimulus level of approximately 75 dbHL (Hearing Level) at their ear in order to attract their attention from whatever they are doing. In the absence of the usual loudspeakers, from about half-way back the music was not loud enough to gain the toddlers’ attention and this half of the room appeared to be in its own little world. Toddlers were making up their own games and were not part of the action at the front.

The organisers had placed several boxes of toys at the front of the audience to help to keep the young children relatively quiet during the music concert. However, this meant that only the first few rows of the audience had access to the toys from the box. At one point a little girl ran from the front to the back of the room with a toy trumpet which caused absolute mayhem as all the other toddlers tried to leap off their parents’ laps (and many succeeded) in order to chase the toddler for her trumpet.

It would have been more interesting (and certainly quieter) to give each parent a coloured handkerchief or scarf as they entered the auditorium so that their child could play with this ‘silently’ to their heart’s desire. Scarves are also good from a health and safety point of view as children are renowned for having accidents with even the safest toy. Also, the babies present who were not developmentally mature enough to see small toys would have enjoyed watching the movement of a colourful scarf being waved in front of their eyes.

When the musicians were playing the more soothing pieces of music, the parents rocked their children and there was an air of real peace in the auditorium. When the music switched to a more upbeat rhythm that one could almost march to, the parents began to move their head and limbs in time to the music and the children followed suit. It was this music that elicited the most smiles and body-activity in the audience.

Children of all ages habituate to new sounds in approximately three to four minutes. We take this through to adulthood – this is believed to be one of the reasons why most pop songs are generally three minutes long! Regarding the young children attending the concert, it was interesting to watch how the pieces of music that over-ran this time period produced more disruptive and ratty behaviour from the toddlers and babies.

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