I remember when I was a very young child darting and buzzing around the playroom with my sisters. We were pretending to be bumblebees. We’d flap our pretend wings while listening to a really fun piece of music, which sounded just like the buzzing of bumblebees. 

I later learned that the music was an orchestral piece called “The Flight of the Bumblebee” composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1899. But we were too young to know what the music was or even care to know. We just loved being bumblebees.

I guess the bumblebee music was my introduction to orchestral music. My Dad had a very large record collection and he would play other wonderful orchestral pieces that caused his young daughters to take note and dance enthusiastically around. This enthusiasm left a strong impression on me and as a result I now play the same music for my kids. 

As parents, we should encourage our children to listen to all forms of music including the music of the masters. Research suggests that classical music can have numerous positive effects for children, including memory development, creativity, and self-expression.   

There is such a wide selection of orchestral music that “rocks” and will grab your child’s attention. Here’s a list of fun orchestral pieces that are linked to different interests.   

1 | Train and steam engine music

If your child is a steam engine or train enthusiast, “Copenhagen Steam Railway Galop” by Hans Christian Lumbye would be an excellent piece to explore. This piece begins with a slow pastoral introduction before the fast galop appears, to recreate the sounds of a train chugging out of the station and blowing its whistle.  

Another piece that replicates the sounds of a steam locomotive is “The Little Train of the Caipira” by Villa-Lobos. This music portrays the journey of a train and its puffing engine. Your kids will hear the chugs of the engine and the toots of the whistle.

2 | Animal music

Carnival of the Animals” is a humorous set of orchestral music written just for children.  Composed in 1886, by the French composer Camille Saint-Saens, it is a suite of 14 movements and each movement represents an animal. For example, there is the “Royal March of the Lion,” “Hens and Roosters,” “The Elephant,” and “Tortoises.” 

Listen to the “roar of the lion,” the “braying donkeys,” or a clarinet imitating a cuckoo bird. The most famous movement is “The Aquarium” which is musically rich with a mysterious and ominous melody. Encourage your kids to move and dance to the music, pretending to be the animals.

3 | Insect and bird music

If your child likes insects, they would appreciate “The Wasps Overture” composed in 1909 by Vaughan Williams. If your child likes birds, play Leopold Mozart’s “The Toy Symphony. It’s a happy, amusing piece with whistles and bird sounds. Another amusing piece is “The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks” by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. This piece uses high-pitched woodwinds to sound like chicks pecking out of their shells. 

4 | Fairy, flower, and snowflake music

The Nutcracker” is probably the most-loved of all the fairy tale ballets. Composed in 1890 by Tchaikovsky, it offers incredible melodies as well as a magical story. Pretend to be a flower in the “Waltz of the Flowers” or a fluttering snowflake in the “Waltz of the Snowflakes.The most famous movement is the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” with sounds of tinkling bells from the glockenspiels. 

Another imaginative piece is “The Snow is Dancing” from Claude Debussy’s “Children’s Corner Suite.” The orchestration conjures up a soft winter scene with fluttering notes like swirling snowflakes. Twirling and circling colorful scarves or ribbons can enhance creative dance movements.

Experiment to see which pieces your kids respond to the best. By exploring the world of orchestral music, your family will receive an enriching experience in the arts. And it’s family time well spent.