One thing we know here at Kinderling is that music is great for our kids’ development. We’re told to play Mozart for our babies in utero to make them good at maths, add some Led Zeppelin for extra creativity, and sing lullabies to strengthen your relationship.
But when should they start making music themselves? Sophie Maxwell from Musical Adventures believes babies from as young as six weeks can start lessons, as it’s not just a great teaching tool but an awesome way for young children to socialise.
Sophie’s a trained violin teacher in the Suzuki method, which she describes as an educational philosophy. “There was a gentleman from Japan who really wanted to use music as a tool to help children be happy, sensitive, high achieving people. He saw children learning Japanese to a very high standard, regardless of any extra learning difficulties they may be having, and realised every child can, as long as we provide them with the right encouragement, the right environment and of course, that essential chemistry between teacher and student.”
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For Sophie that means that teachers should love music, love working with children and really believe that every child can achieve. At first though, she was a little sceptical about tiny babies getting anything out of music lessons, but over the course of her 13 years of teaching, she’s come to discover the true benefits from such a young age. She shares four key reasons why it’s great for bubs to pick up an instrument before they can talk.
1. Babies love music
Sophie explains that the turning point for her was during a music class she witnessed, with a six-week-old baby in the class. At first she thought – as you may be right now - how on earth can a six-week-old take anything in?! But the class teacher proceeded to help the baby play a drum.
“As soon as the sound started, the baby went pink from pleasure from head to toe. For me it was one of those galvanising moments in life, where I suddenly had to think differently about the way I approached music education. And I suddenly realised how incredibly capable these tiny people are,” Sophie explains.
When mum or dad are in the lesson, singing all the songs, doing all the actions, being a perfect model student, their baby sits there, watches, and soaks it all up. Babies just want to do what big people do, and Sophie’s family classes include children of all ages. Young babies love watching older toddlers participating in activities and it really motivates them to want to be involved too.
2. Music aids development
There are so many important areas where music enhances development in those early years of childhood.
“Music has an amazing impact on brain development, communication skills, emotion regulation, socials skills, fine motor control … the list goes on and on and on,” Sophie says. “And we know that the earlier we start them, the greater impact we have on the brain because we’re capitalising on this period of brain development where it’s just like fireworks. As parents you can see those extraordinary changes in your little one week to week. And we’re just piggy-backing on all of that with music education.”
3. They learn skills for future education
As well as setting the groundwork for a lifetime of learning music, classes prepare babies and kids for all sorts of education, including teaching them how to be focussed and calm, which is key to making teaching easier.
“In [our] classes, we’re teaching them the fundamentals of music, so, rhythm, beat, pitch, whether the sound is high or low. As well as using music as an opportunity to teach socials skills and also to teach other important skills like sitting and listening, and when can we run around,” Sophie says. “We’re getting them learning ready, school ready, and of course, ready to learn an instrument.”
4. Music is good for the whole family
When your kids are young, parents are bombarded with things you ‘should do’ when babies are still small. Music lessons are just another thing to add to the list, which Sophie recognises. She says it’s all about figuring out what works for your family, but to also consider how it could help everyone. Research from University College London shows that mums going to group singing lessons with their babies results in mothers’ postnatal depression symptoms improving faster.
The other benefits of music for the individual child are incredible, with early music lessons even changing the structure of the brain. Sophie explains, “We know that music has an extraordinary impact on all areas of the brain. It’s quite interesting; you can actually look at a picture of the brain and know if they’re a musician or not. Because the corpus colosum, which is the area that links the two hemispheres of the brain, is significantly increased in musicians and particularly musicians who started their music classes before the age of seven.”
Who knows? If you enrol them now, you may have the next Beethoven on your hands!
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