The key to being a rock star is displaying a killer combo of enthusiasm and self-confidence. In other words, be a toddler. (They’re the only ones that can get away with scream-singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” while shaking a diapered butt.) Channel all that energy into these music classes for kids in Chicago that focus on learning and fun.
Kindermusik at Bucktown Music
The underlying premise of Kindermusik is that music is the best method for early childhood development. Bucktown Music offers a progressive Kindermusik class for toddlers, which teaches vocal development, tone and rhythm patterns to instill a musical ear. Parents learn songs, poems and games to incorporate into everyday life, while a class album, e-book and interactive guide reinforce lessons.
1890 N. Milwaukee Ave., Bucktown; Online: bucktownmusic.com
Marsha’s Music teaches Music Together toddler classes in which parents participate alongside their kids, who learn by imitation. Each mixed-age class features songs, rhymes, movement and instrument play, and there’s plenty of room to improvise. A CD and illustrated songbook are take-homes for parents who want to bring the party back to their place.
Saint Paul & the Redeemer, 4945 S. Dorchester Ave., Hyde Park; Online: marshasmusic.com
Merit School of Music
In the early childhood classes at this music springboard located in the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, gets tots their first taste of rhythms and beats. The Movers and Shakers program for ages 18 mos.-3 yrs. encourages peer interaction as kids sing and play simple percussion instruments.
38 S. Peoria St., West Loop; Online: meritmusic.org
Merry Music Makers
Pros introduce kids to music fundamentals, like tapping out a beat and singing in tune. The philosophy behind the Music Together program is that the strongest way to learn is for parents to model music behaviors. Mixed-age classes (ages 0-5) include standard folk songs like “Skip to My Lou,” but also Bollywood, Klezmer and American Indian melodies to introduce children to different keys and musical meters.
Locations in Lakeview West, Lakeview East, Andersonville, Edgewater & Roscoe Village; Online: merrymusicmakers.com
Mr. Dave Music
Not only will you find live music classes for kids ages 4 & under, but Mr. Dave also partners with Buddha Belly Kids Yoga to teach Movement & Mindfulness to tots starting at 18 months. Open-Ended Art classes allow students to uniquely express how a particular piece of music makes them feel, and Baby Raves get the whole family on the dance floor.
1935 W. Division St., West Town; Online: mrdavemusic.com
Music House School of Performing Arts
Music Together classes fill up quickly at Music House. Their 45-minutes classes aim to increase family bonding while developing everyone’s love of music. Children learn how to make music while improving literacy, self-expression and motor skills.
2925 W. Devon, West Rogers Park & 1018 N. California Ave., Humboldt Park; Online: musichouseinc.com
Music Institute of Chicago
Musikgarten classes build fundamental music skills by revisiting songs, stories and dances from session to session. The Family Music for Toddlers program includes singing, dancing, playing instruments and lots of movement so kids can learn to feel a beat. Working with the parent is an instrumental part of the program, so grownups are given a CD and guide to continue the learning at home.
Various locations throughout the city & suburbs; Online: musicinst.org
The Music Playhouse of Chicago
Instill in your kids a deep love and understanding of music through highly engaging, play-based classes. From infant sensory classes to music discovery and mixed-age adventures in singing and piano, 45-minute lessons are made memorable through repetition, gamification and just plain fun
Various locations in the Lakeview neighborhood; Online: themusicplayhouseofchicago.com
Wiggleworms at Old Town School of Folk Music
The Old Town School of Folk Music brings its laid-back, hippie approach to its kid program, Wiggleworms. Teachers lead the class on guitar, banjo or ukulele while singing folk, rock and pop (think “Yellow Submarine”.) Kids sing, bang out rhythms, play with parachutes and bubbles and learn to socialize with each other.
Classes are currently held at the main Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square locations, as well as one at a satellite location in Evanston.
4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Square & 909 W. Armitage Ave., Lincoln Park; Online: oldtownschool.org
Looking to further encourage that new music appreciation? Check out these live music venues that are sure to bring out the inner groupie in you and your kids.
The Rock and Roll Playhouse
The Rock and Roll Playhouse is the largest kid-friendly concert series in the country and, lucky for us, Chicago is among their many stops. The Rock and Roll Playhouse brings together local musicians to play songs from the most iconic musicians, like The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, Phish, Bob Marley and Prince in order to provide a shared musical experience between parents and kids (ages 1-7, mostly.) In Chicago, you often find shows at Gallagher Way and Thalia Hall.
There is no better way to have a relaxing weekend brunch than when your kids are in the next room dancing their bottoms off. Beat Kitchen has long hosted Concerts for Kids on Sundays at 11 a.m. Catch acts like Mary Macaroni, Super Stolie or The Boogers. Tickets are only a few bucks, and you are free to bring your mimosas and Bloody Mary’s into the stage room and cut a rug yourself. While the Concerts for Kids is on hiatus, due to the pandemic, it has been temporarily replaced by Bluegrass Brunch for all ages on Saturdays at 11 a.m. Tickets are free.
2100 W. Belmont Ave., Roscoe Village; Online: beatkitchen.com
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Listen to the classics in a captivating way with programs such as Once Upon a Symphony which incorporates storytelling, magical set designs and costumes alongside live music, with the help of the Chicago Children’s Theatre. As children grow, Family Matinees are geared towards kids ages 5 & up.
220 S. Michigan Ave., Loop; Online: cso.org
Catch many of the city’s best children’s concerts at Gallagher Way during their free Wiggleworms sessions in the summer, or enjoy various genres during their French Market and many other events throughout the year. With ample space for the kids to run around or play in the fountains, it’s easy to kick back and enjoy a cocktail while you listen, dance or sing along.
3635 N. Clark St., Lakeview; Online: gallagherway.com
Old Town School of Folk Music
The Old Town School of Folk Music is working on bringing back their Kids Concerts, where local favorites such as Little Miss Ann, Laura Doherty perform regularly, and even Justin Roberts has appeared annually.
4544 N. Lincoln Ave., Lincoln Square; Online: oldtownschool.org
The well-known summer festival also includes Kids Concerts. Prior performances have included the world-famous Laurie Berkner. Get there before the show to enjoy the KidsLawn, which includes an Interactive Musical Playground. The 2022 lineup will be announced on Mar. 24, with tickets going on sale on May 4.
201 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park; Online: ravinia.org
Some of the best places to enjoy live music with the whole family are the many, many street festivals in Chicago during the summer. Most street festivals have a family stage during the day with lots of local kid bands on the schedule, and if you can keep the kids out a little late, you can all rock out to the headliners at night.
— Debra Flanagan
Featured photo: Ketut Subivanto via Pexels