How Early Music Lessons Can Help Your Child with Reading, Listening, and More

Family Matters on 11.23.11
Contributor bio

Photo: Steven Depolo/Creative Commons

My husband and I are doing everything we can to give our daughter a fighting chance of being musically inclined. Neither of us can really carry a tune, although we try, and we haven't played instruments since the trumpet (me) and saxophone (him) in the middle school band. So, we're constantly playing music on the iPod, and my husband has been teaching himself to play the guitar through videos on YouTube, proudly displaying his calloused fingers after his lesson every night. When he asked me which instrument I would like to play, I ended up on a ukulele simply for its small stature and portability. (The harmonica would have been even better, but he vetoed that.)

Learning from the Pros

But I'm still worried that our daughter may inherit her parents' lack of rhythm, so for the past ten weeks we've been attending Musikgarten Mornings, a nationwide music program, where we sing, dance, bounce babies on our knees, tap wooden sticks together and shake rattles. I've learned all the words to "Hush Little Baby" and "Pop Goes the Weasel", and been amazed at the look of anticipation on the babies' faces when they hear a song they recognize.

I'd always heard it's good to expose your kids to music -- even in utero -- but this class really taught me some of the science behind it: Music can help even the youngest children learn to listen and recognize patterns, and supports their development of verbal skills, movement/body awareness, creativity, and literacy (in music and words). For the babies under one year old, the program incorporates music into games like peek-a-boo and exposes kids to new sounds and movements. Tossing scarves in the air, swinging ribbons and tooting wooden whistles are pretty much the best things ever -- at least judging by the looks on babies' tiny faces.

Bringing the Lessons Home

I've also ordered lots of instruments to help continue our music education outside of class. Amazon has the teacher-recommended items, like the Hohner Kids Rainmaker, the Meinl Plastic Egg Shaker and the Lynn Kleiner Baby Drum with Mallet for the younger kids, and for babies more than a year old, there are things like the Hohner Kids Toddler Glockenspiel and an Educo Early Melodies Maracas.(Who knows, maybe I'll even pick up a harmonica for myself.)

A few musical safety tips: Make sure the instruments are age-appropriate, supervise your children while they're using them, and buy instruments that are made with natural wood and child-safe paints and finishes. Then, just sit back and let your baby Beethoven serenade you.

More Articles about Child Development
Put Down Those Word-Learning Flashcards

The Language Your Kids Are Learning Without You
The Sound of Family Music