Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Benefits of Early Childhood Music

Posted on the Music Education Madness website, by Karen Stafford

Can children from infancy through kindergarten really grasp the concept of music theory and principles? Why expose a child to music at such an early age when there's so much time?

If you've ever been around young children, you've probably noticed how they tend to try to skip rather than walk, dance rather than stroll, or sing when they're trying to drown out your instructions:-) The best argument for early childhood music education lies in the fact that children at this age, for the most part, are naturally receptive to the nuances of pitch and rhythm.

No one says that a teacher needs to sit down and start in on theory! The benefits go much deeper than that. Don Campbell, in his definitive study on The Mozart Effect, delved into the connection between music, body, and soul, stating case after case of real-life situations in which physical and mental health improved with measured and planned exposure to classical music. As early as 1962, Dr. Lee Salk demonstrated that the fetus is aware of the mother's heartbeat. Lullabies and tunes crooned to infants have been a centuries-old method of soothing babies to lull them to sleep. How natural it is, then, that this carries over to soothe younger babies and toddlers, and that they use the power of their inner music whenever they wish the comfort themselves.

More to the point, children at this age are less inhibited that they might be after they enter elementary school. They are ready to jump right in and give it a go! There is no pressure for a fantastic performance. The toddlers and preschoolers are free to experiment all the wonders of sound without the "standard" judgment of a preconceived notion of proper performance.
The physical benefits of early childhood music are outstanding, also. Fine and gross motor skills can be improved through improvisational dancing and handling of the instruments. Vocal and speech development can improve through singing. (Have you honestly ever noticed how some children who have to attend speech seem to do great with rhyming and poems?). Listening skills and concentration improve with aural training. The old-fashioned goals of sharing and cooperation are reinforced with the sharing of instruments and encouragement of other students.

The most important benefit, however, is the proven positive effects music has on brain development. This has been thoroughly researched and documented and is most crucial during the first 6 years, when the most important brain development takes place. NPR radio broadcast a program called "Gray Matters: Music and the Brain", which included Dr. Gordon Shaw, who first described "The Mozart Effect".

Imagine....if parents would expose their children to classical music at a young age, what the possibilities would be for these children at an older age! No one is guaranteeing that they'll all become performers, but the youngsters who have had this exposure have an advantage in academic abilities, self-esteem, and probably improved attitudes in general.

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