The key to being a rock star is displaying a killer combination 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 your little one’s energy with these early education music classes that focus on learning and fun.

Image By Dan Kasberger, Chicago

Wiggleworms at Old Town School of Folk Music
The Old Town School of Folk Music brings its laidback, 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. It’s all very Free to Be … You and Me. Classes are held at the main Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square locations, as well as satellites in Hyde Park, Instituto Cervantes, Evanston, Glencoe and Western Springs.

4544 N. Lincoln Ave.
Lincoln Square
909 W. Armitage Ave.
Lincoln Park

Sherwood Community Music School
Its affiliation with Columbia College Chicago is already something to sing about. And when you consider the strength of its early childhood music options — Music Together classes in both English and Spanish — you’ll probably do a happy dance, too. Each session nurtures your kiddo’s innate musical ability through singing, chanting, movement and instrumental experimentation.

1312 S. Michigan Ave.
South Loop


Musical Magic
The Tappin’ Toddlers class at this Roscoe Village spot encourages kids to cut loose with songs, dancing, instruments and puppets. Every ditty (most of which are original) is accompanied by a different prop. The grand finale is the Boogyin’ Bubbles Dance, at which toddlers shake it in front of a bubble machine while their faces light up with joy. Toddlers and parents sign up for eight-week sessions. That way, tots learn to socialize while parents and caregivers can feel part of an ongoing community.

2255 W. Roscoe St.
Roscoe Village

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 (and sneak in some gross motor development while they’re at it). The emphasis on movement makes this a great option for active kids, who will have a chance to beat on drums, jingle bells, play with rhythm sticks and dance with scarves. 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 and suburbs
Downtown location at the Gratz Center
126 E. Chestnut St.


Kindermusik at Bucktown Music
The underlying premise of the Kindermusik program is that music is the best method for early childhood development. Bucktown Music, recognized by Kindermusik International as one of the top programs worldwide, offers a Wiggle and Grow class for toddlers, which teaches vocal development and tone and rhythm patterns to instill a musical ear. Parents learn songs, poems and games to incorporate into everyday life (there’s one about temper tantrums, for instance), while a class album, e-book and interactive guide reinforce lessons. The program is progressive and no units are repeated throughout successive sessions so kids won’t get bored. Once young songbirds age out of Kindermusik, they have a running start for private music lessons.

1890 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Merit School of Music
In the early childhood classes at this music springboard located in the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center in the West Loop, tots get their first taste of rhythms and beats. The Movers and Shakers program for ages 18 months to three years encourages peer interaction as kids sing and play simple percussion instruments.

38 S. Peoria St.
West Loop


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 for their kids (parents mimic the teacher and, in turn, children, mimic their parent). Mom, Dad or a caregiver can bring siblings to the mixed-age class (birth to age 5), so younger kids can also learn from older ones. Classes 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. Free demo classes are offered as a trial.

3 Chicago locations, including:
3759 N. Ravenswood Ave.

Marsha’s Music
Marsha’s Music teaches Music Together toddler classes in which parents participate alongside their kids, who learn by imitation. Each class features songs, rhymes, movement and instrument play, and there’s plenty of room to improvise. The relaxed atmosphere, and an encouragement of silliness, makes everyone feel comfortable. Siblings can attend the Mixed Age class together. A CD and illustrated songbook are take-homes for parents who want to bring their party back to their place.

3 locations citywide, including:
1438 E. 57th St.
Hyde Park

Which toddler music classes have you taken? Let us know in the Comments section below.

— Rebecca Little

Photos: Courtesy of Old Town School of Folk Music / Dan Kasberger, Musical Magic, Bucktown Music, Merry Music Makers