Kids learn to appreciate music before they’re even born, with research showing that fetuses can hear and react to sound by moving in utero. But does that mean you should be booking your baby in for music classes from a few months of age? The answer may surprise you…
When a song comes on the radio or a music-heavy commercial pops up on TV, many mums notice their little ones bopping away to funky tunes. But have you ever wondered whether kids truly benefit from and learn through interacting with music?
From an academic perspective, the results are in: An exhaustive 10-year study by UCLA professor Dr. James Catterall, which tracked 25,000 students, found that those involved in music generally scored higher in standardised academic tests, than those who had no music involvement.
But even for children as young as six months old, regular exposure to music is a definite plus, says Cherylann Bellavia, author of An Age-by-Age Guide to the Best Start in Music Education.
“Almost all children love music,” she explains. “Studies have shown that music enhances a child’s comprehension abilities, helps them with math concepts, assists in the development of fine motor skills, and helps to build self-confidence.”
Bellavia says many children with special needs have been known to excel at music, even though they are unable to communicate or participate in regular structured activities. “In general, music enhances the lives of many children – and adults, as well,” she adds.
So what are the exact benefits of your child attending music classes, and how young should you start your little ones at structured music classes?
6 months old
Classes for parents and bubs are a great way to bond with your baby, and also begin the process of your child learning from and interacting with music. Einsteinz Music in Sydney designs classes for babies as young as six months old: “We teach children the fundamentals of music, being beat, pitch, rhythm and tempo, through a repertoire chosen specifically for that purpose and hands-on experience with the percussion instruments,” explains the music school’s owner, Robin Rostovsky. “As small babies begin to discover their fingers and toes and develop control over their own movements, we can encourage this journey of self-discovery and development through touching songs, games, rhymes and chants.”
18 to 24 months old
Programs designed for toddlers aged 18 months and older still require parental participation, but by this age, your child will start to actively to engage in the class on their own. This is because your toddler has developed important skills such as clapping hands, banging on drums and shaking different instruments. “They move to all kinds of music,” says Rostovsky, “experiencing different styles, tempos, pitches, rhythms and dynamics.
3 to 4 years old ?
Programs for kids aged three and four years old are “really the ideal age for kids to start their music experience,” according to Bellavia. “Most of these programs are about 30 to 35 minutes in length and they involve props, movement and singing,” she explains. “Some even integrate arts and crafts and free play with rhythm instruments and props to music.”
5 to 7 years old
By this age your little one may be ready to start more formal training, if they’re showing a genuine interest in music. Piano is a great instrument to start with, as the finger movements are generally easier to learn and execute than other, trickier instruments, such as a guitar or violin. “For children ages 5 and up, sometimes the best way to begin their musical path is to have them take some type of group piano or group violin lesson with other children their age,” Bellavia adds.
7 years and up
From this age, instruments such as the guitar, other strings and even drums can be introduced. If your child has already spent six to 12 months learning an instrument (e.g. piano), they should find it easier to transition to another (e.g. guitar) and engage with it more quickly.