There is much to discuss when exploring the benefits of music in our lives in general, but even more so for infants and toddlers.
In the educational field, we hear about “early childhood intervention” more and more. This is because the first five years of a child’s life are a critical period of development. They are absorbing information and learning new skills at a rapid rate.
This provides you as a parent with the opportunity to maximize your child’s development by exposing them to a broad range of activities and challenges. Music is perhaps the most productive area to introduce your child to as it provides benefits for cognitive development, neural processes for speech and language, emotional intelligence, motor skills, and even social skills.
This should not be surprising as a baby develops the ability to hear even before birth. The ears and nose are among the first sense organs to develop and are the most developed at birth. Infants use these two most-developed senses to connect to their surroundings in their earliest experiences. This is why your newborn easily recognizes your voice and smell and is comforted by your presence.
Because of this, most children are naturally attracted to music. And because of the way music is experienced biologically – sound energy enters the ear and is converted into an electrical signal to be processed by the brain – listening to music encourages the development of neural connections.
This basic biology is why exposing your child to music at an early age has a particularly strong impact on how your child’s brain is able to process speech and language. It’s worth remembering that music is itself another language.
And in the same way that spoken languages are guided by grammar, music is guided by harmony, which is what defines a piece of music’s emotional color. One doesn’t need to be an expert to connect with music emotionally, or to recognize whether the music you’re hearing is happy or sad.
Of course, infants and toddlers are not going to gain much from a college-style lecture about music. So introducing your child to music can only be effective if it’s done in a manner appropriate to their physical, mental, and emotional development.
The most common starting point is a “Mommy & Me” class. These allow your child to learn and explore through age-appropriate activities. In the process, your child becomes more comfortable with structure and routine, and also strengthens language development and vocabulary, social skills, mental focus and physical coordination, all while learning the fundamentals of music.
Many parents do not realize how much an infant or toddler can gain from music education – they’re clearly not capable of mastering an instrument as preschoolers – but by exposing your child to music as early as possible, you are making the most of this incredible period of development in your child’s life. You will also create the foundation that will help propel your child on their musical and developmental journey for the rest of their childhood.