I’ve always known that I wanted musical children. I always dreamed of learning a few instruments myself. So when the day came that I was bringing my son to his first piano lesson, I was a little crushed when he wasn’t ready for the program.
I contacted the music teacher and asked if she would take on a 4 year old. She was very hesitant to say yes over the phone and instead, suggested an interview. We made an appointment, arrived on time, and proceeded to answer questions about our knowledge and understanding of music. My son was a superstar throughout the interview – he answered all of the questions spectacularly and his personality shone bright as he exuded confidence and understanding. Unfortunately, he didn’t answer one question right; what letter “E” was when it was drawn on the piano key. From that, the pianist let me know that he was going to be an extraordinary musician, but not for a few months yet. She gave me some homework to do with my son and let me know to come back when we were ready.
The Importance of Music
The research shows that music is an extremely beneficial skill to pick up as a child as it helps with childhood development in ways not fully understood and are still being uncovered. A study done by the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California indicated that early music instruction accelerates brain development in the areas associated with processing sound, language development, speech perception, and reading skills. The study was five years in length, starting to 2012, and looked at children ages 6 and 7 just learning to play the violin. The neuroscientists used MRI scans to monitor changes within the brain, EEGs to track electrical activity in the brain, and behavioural tests. They compared the violin students to groups of kids playing soccer or not participating in any extracurricular activity. Within two years, the results started to show that the auditory systems, the system responsible for the development of language and reading, was greatly accelerated in the children learning to play the violin in comparison to others. To read more on this study, click here.
If that wasn’t enough, could you imagine the added benefit of dancing to music? Gross motor skills and social skills built during dancing also play into the mix! According to the North Vancouver Recreation Centre, dancing, in combination with music, engages the brain through patterns, helps cultivate communication skills, boosts self-esteem and physical skills, and promotes creativity (see here). So there’s a lot to be said for having a musician in the family!
Adopting Music into Your Home
After all of those benefits, it’s easy to see why music should be in the lives of all budding families. But how do we incorporate it into our routines?
As a new Mom, music and dancing were more instinctual for me than they are now. When I had a cranky baby, I would bounce them along in a little dance while I hummed my favourite tune. I also started singing songs that my parents sang to me. This would be my way of calming my children, but now that they no longer need to be bounced to sleep, I seem to have moved away from the music, and ushered in the age of sports and science.
Music is everywhere though. Theatre, movies, holidays, religion, celebrations, and even in books, music can be found. However, if you are finding it hard to find it, or want more musical activities for your young children, try these out! I’ve also included ideas for those looking to increase musical toys in the home!
Infants and Melodies
Infants can recognize the melody of a song, even if they don’t know the words. They enjoy simple, calm music and especially those sung by close family members. I sang songs about getting dressed, changing a diaper, eating yummy green food, or going to grandma’s house to my children to soothe them. It also helped reiterate positive emotions for good behaviours – particularly eating green food! Avoid loud music and music with harsh rhythm.
Know a little baby that could use some music in their life? Try this beaded raindrop toy. It’s great for gross motor skills and problem-solving too! Find it here.
Toddlers and Tunes
My boys, after learning to moves around a bit more, loved to dance! Their “moves” certainly weren’t graceful or nimble, but they could memorize and repeat motions. They could also try toy instruments like drums and shakers. Find fun songs with a little bounce in them, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “The Ants Go Marching,” or my sons’ ultimate favourite, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” and let your child play an instrument or clap along throughout.
My toddler absolutely loves his Fisher Price cassette player! It comes with lots of music on both sides of the cassette and we can even record and playback our own tunes! Click here.
Preschoolers and Notes
My preschoolers is an enthusiastic musician. He can dance, sing, and has acquired a sensible side of confidence. He is eager to learn new songs and pick up new instruments. Although not ready for the professional level quite yet, I can tell he is going to knock ‘em out at those future Christmas recitals. To help stimulate his love of music, I now incorporate dance routines, funny songs, finger plays, and nonsense rhymes into songs he already knows to mix things up. For instance, I will sing a song he loves, but instead of singing the correct words, I will add something funny, like “Old MacDonald had a spider.” He catches on really quick and it keeps his brain moving. We can also now do Patty Cake with the hand movements and add snapping our fingers to cool songs.
I am getting him a giant floor piano mat for Christmas to help him learn the names of the piano keys easier and with a dash of fun. If you feel the impulse to get this for your child, the piano instructor we saw advised us to get one that looks like a piano and has the keys in the correct spots, like this one.
Kindergarteners and Chords
Have a little one in school already? These not so tiny tots are ready for the big leagues with musical education, real instruments, and intricate sing-alongs. Try incorporating songs into everyday teachings and everyday teachings into songs. Like counting, spelling, and recalling sequences of stories. Kids this age may also start expressing their likes and dislikes in musical taste, and may prefer to play or sing certain genres. Keep informed of your child’s progress in music class and practice their homework with them. They love to play for parents!
When my munchkins get to this stage, I hope they will tell me which instrument they want to pick up! I do pray it’s the beautiful and melodic piano but one can only hope!
More on Music
If you’re interested in introducing or increasing the music exposure outside the home, try KARA’s Rhymes That Bind program or, coincidently, the Castledowns Public Library also holds Baby Laptime and Family Story Time that also incorporate music into the mix!
In the words of Beethoven, music can change the world. So get out there!