Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Children learn by doing. Who knew?

Hands-on parents strike better chord with children, by Faye Burstin, February 5, 2008

PLONKING kids in front of music videos such as the Wiggles or Hi-5 doesn't enhance their musical talent and may even hinder it.

New Australian research shows parents rely heavily on commercially produced CDs and DVDs for children's musical stimulation, claiming they don't have the time or musical talent for anything more creative. But mass-market music products, especially those with a visual component such as videos, DVDs and TV, are no substitute for musical interaction between adults and children, and may even be detrimental, according to a Monash University education study.

"Singing with a young child allows for spontaneous vocal play, movement and drama that are not always possible with music CDs and DVDs," said study author Peter de Vries. "Some products with a visual component are non-interactive . . . and detract from musical events. "These products can constrain spontaneous musical play . . . and parents need to be aware of their detrimental effects on young children's musical development."

Dr de Vries' survey of 63 parents of preschool pupils under five, published recently in the Australian Journal of Early Childhood, found 65 per cent of parents played music to children at least once a week and 18 per cent did so daily. But only 29 per cent regularly sang to their kids and a meagre 8 per cent played with them using bought or made instruments.

Children often sang and danced to CDs but DVDs tended to "quieten children down", with some parents noting their children "just sat there and blanked out", the study found. "Someone will be singing and dancing and talking to the camera, asking children to join in, and all I see is my child staring at the screen," one parent reported.

Research shows music helps develop children's co-ordination, listening, language, communication and social skills. Many parents assumed Wiggles and Hi-5 music "must be good" because they were often played in preschools and childcare centres, but the key was to be present rather than use them to babysit.

"Watching together enables adults to respond to opportunities the program offers and listen to their child's comments and observe responses, which can lay the foundation for further exploration," Dr de Vries said.

Australian Institute of Music and Childhood Development director Jenny Wilkinson said CDs often helped give self-conscious parents the confidence to sing with kids. But just putting music on doesn't have the same effect. Children learn by doing, especially with adults, and there are so many opportunities for spontaneous singing," she said.

Carnegie mum Simone Waterman sings daily to her three children, making up silly rhymes and playing with a basket of musical instruments. "I sing really badly and have no rhythm but until the kids beg me to stop I'll keep going." The ex-childcare worker attends a weekly parent-and-child music session and rarely resorts to TV. "I like Play School but I'm not fond of The Wiggles or Hi-5."

1 comment:

Just Us Gibsons said...

Wow, anybody need a few Baby Einstein DVD's? I think I have a 1/2 dozen to get rid of!