Okay, so the late, great Mozart wrote his first symphony at the age of 8. Now, clearly, prodigies like Mozart are few and far between, to say the least.
Whether your child is destined to be the next Mozart or not, early immersion in music is guaranteed to be of major benefit to him or her. So how should one go about immersing their infant or toddler in music, to set the foundation for a lifetime of musical appreciation and exploration?
From the time they are born, children can develop an appreciation for music, develop a sensibility for it, and naturally see it as something that is fun and enriches life. The earlier they begin to develop these feelings for music, the less likely they are to see it as merely another vehicle for competition, a potentially stress-inducing activity they must excel at. It is a joyful thing, pure and whimsical, a means for them of emotional expression, and—as is often the case in children’s songs—laughter and learning.
Research in the field is increasingly bearing out that the best time to begin immersing children in music runs from the day they are born through the age of nine. Throughout this period of their lives, their minds are in an optimal position for developing a musical sensibility. It is over this time that peak development is taking place in the parts of the brain which handle the processing and understanding of music.
That said, for the first two or three years of a child’s life, there should be no emphasis on any concept of developing proficiency on an instrument, or on any kind of formal musical training or instruction. The main thing at this age range is that they are in an environment where music is a regular part of their experience, a positive and fun part of their world.
All that is required to immerse a child in music as a significant part of their day-to-day experience is to expose them to music at every opportunity. Some music is just pure fun for them, and many of the best children’s songs are not only fun but educational at the same time.
Here are some ways to incorporate music into your child’s daily routine:
Hold your child in your arms, singing and dancing. As they begin to develop more motor skills, they can dance with you on their own.
Sing along with them to songs they like on the way to daycare, or while you’re preparing dinner. Any time is a good time for music.
Get them a little toy drum or kit, or some kind of hand drum, and let them beat out rhythms on it. It’s not important that the rhythms even be truly rhythmic at this point; it’s all about fun.
If you play an instrument, play it for them, and sing along, if possible. They will gravitate toward it with a sense of wonder and fascination.
This all serves in establishing music as a joyful part of being alive, something they can carry with them throughout their entire lives.
Having laid this foundation, as the child gets into his or her third year, it becomes possible to begin stepping up to slightly more formal music lessons. By now, music has become such an enriching part of their experience in the world that they will likely want to continue to make it an even deeper part of their lives as their cognitive and motor skills continue to develop.
Music is truly a lifelong exploration, and by giving your child the gift of musical appreciation and sensibility, you are greatly increasing the overall enjoyment they can find in life as they grow older.