Parents often question the validity of enrolling an infant into music classes asking, ‘Isn’t my child too young?’
Music is a Language
Instinctively, we don’t wait until a child can speak before we talk to them. We immerse them in language from birth and often even before, speaking to mum’s belly. We enjoy their babbling responses and are excited when these become recognisable, and baby utters their first words. We patiently witness the miracle of this growth and learning.
Interestingly, we don’t hothouse children with just random words when teaching them to speak. We talk to them as fellow humans, though with babies usually in a higher pitch range known as parentese. Yet when it comes to music (language) education, we tend to delay until they are ‘old enough’ and think that a once-a-week music class will suffice.
Music is a grammarless language, and if we immerse our little ones in the sounds of live music making, we soon hear very beautiful responses from children, from an early age, even before they can speak! In fact, when we listen to babies cooing and babbling, we can hear the musicality in their voices as they explore their vocal ranges. As they attempt to mimic the sounds around them, they begin to learn about what they hear, process and memorise sounds, and learn how to replicate and think sound.
Music Builds Better Brains
You may already know that brain development occurs most prolifically from in utero up to the age of 2 and then continues steadily to the age of 7, but did you know that being involved in interactive musical activity has been shown to light up the whole brain, giving it a full work out.
Dr Anita Collins and fellow research neuroscientists studying brain development used MRI scans to show that when we speak, the left side of the brain lights up and when we do mathematics, the right side is stimulated. Amazingly, when we create music, it’s like a brain fireworks show on the scans!
They also found that through the complex brain function that occurs as we listen to and are engaged in creating music, even in the form of simple vocal play and singing of songs, patterns of sounds are formed creating neuropathways that serve us for life.
These pathways lead to the formation of a filing system of memories that involve sound, language, numeracy, and spacial awareness as we add movement to our musical experiences. Recognition of patterns helps us with complex problem solving throughout our lives.
Music is Good for Life-Long Learning
During interactive music classes, so much complex learning is experienced and absorbed. In class children learn to share, take turns, and interact with others. Making music (what I call musicking) also further expands brain development and sets children up for life-long successful learning.
Through musicking children develop strengths in various disciplines. Aural-kinaesthetic memory is refined as they sing and move to music. Numeracy skills are built as they learn to work rhythm into a steady beat. Learning to listen to themselves music. children hear when the music rises and falls, when it skips and learn to coordinate their
body parts to all work as one. Becoming aesthetically aware, bringing out the beauty of their sound production and learning to breathe and relax are also wonderful benefits of quality early music education. Through music those neurological pathways are given a full working over.
Music is Good for Us
As we develop our musical abilities, we also practise mindfulness. Beautiful, tuneful music is only produces when the singer/musician is totally present to the task of musicking. Students who play an instrument have been shown to be calmer and more resilient than their peers. Neuroscientists have also found that musicians develop a much higher executive functioning than the general population.
To reward us, our body released endorphins and oxytocins – musicking lifts our spirit with a natural high and leaves us feeling happy. Singing and musicking positively affects our emotional state and is excellent for our mental health. As an added bonus, music has the capacity, more than anything else, to improve our cognitive capacity as we age.
Given that most of our neuropathways are forged before we are 2yo and the known benefits of music for brain development, life-long learning and brain longevity I encourage all parents to begin their child’s quality music education and daily immersion in the language of music as early as possible.