Jamming With Your Toddler: How Music Trumps Reading For Childhood Development

Forget the Mozart Effect and Baby Einstein, take it easy on acquisitions for your two-year-olds private library, and dont fret if your three-year-old hasnt started violin lessons just yet.

The key to unlocking a childs potential intelligence and happiness may indeed are available in music, but succumbing to the commercial juggernaut that is the baby-genius-making industry may not be in either your child or your wallets best interest.

Instead, try stimulating up anthems with your toddler. A new study suggests that regular informal music-making with very young children may even have benefits above and beyond those of reading.

But theres an important, interesting, and somewhat beautiful catch for best outcomes, make it shared music-making in your home.

In an analysis of data generated from a study involving more than 3,000 infants, a University of Queensland team investigated the associations between informal home music education for very young children and later cognitive and social-emotional outcomes.

The team found that informal music-making in the home from across the ages of two and three can lead to better literacy, numeracy, social abilities, and attention and emotion regulation by the age of five.

By measuring the impact of music and reading both separately and in combined samples, the researchers were able to identify benefits from informal music activity over and above shared volume read, most strongly in relation to positive social behaviour, attention regulation and to a lesser but still significant extent, numeracy.

Part of an Australian Research Council money study titled Being and becoming musical: towards a cultural ecological model of early musical developing, the study aims to provide a comprehensive account of how Australian families use music in their parenting practices and make recommendations for policy and practise in childcare and early learning and development.

Last month, the team was awarded the inaugural Music Trust Award for Research into the Benefits of Music Education.

Music and its relationship to mental and social development has long captured the attention of mothers, researchers, even philosophers.

Science has shown that musics impact on the brain is particularly strong, with studies demonstrating an improvement in IQ among students who receive music lessons. Advantages in the classroom ought to have identified for students who study musical instruments, and the effects of ageing on cognition may even be mitigated through lifelong musical activity.

So how is this study different, apart from its focus on early childhood?

Crucially, its findings are based on situations where the childs musical activities were informal and shared, typically with a mother basically a playful social experience.

Simple and fun musical activities can have enormous power in developing numeracy and literacy: try improvising a counting anthem, or constructing up new verses to familiar tunes.

But the true power of musical play is available in the unique mix of imagination, audio and face-to-face interaction; the learn is strengthened by its basis in a positive, empathic emotional relationship.

Forget CDs and toys that beep, playing music should be a shared experience. www.shutterstock.com

Parents are increasingly enrolling very young children in specialist music classes – undoubtedly a positive development. Read, however, is rarely outsourced in this route, and this study is demonstrated that mothers should feel promoted and empowered in tapping their own inner musician before seeming outside the home.

As with most aspects of parenting( in my personal non-scientific experience ), there is no way substitute for a mothers personal involvement, even if it involves long-forgotten modes of behaviour such as taking simple pleasure in inducing sounds.

Being playful with sound is something were all born with indeed, toddlers are humanitys greatest superstar in that considers – yet too many are silenced over the years by the better insured than heard brigade.

Its no accident that we talk about playing a musical instrument; a turn of phrase that too easily becomes sadly ironic if formal music lesson structures calcify into strictures.

Jam conferences with your toddler can be an enormous developmental asset. www.shutterstock.com

So recapturing a sense of play( if youre an adult) is crucial to the process of shared music-making, and this research invites mothers to focus on the components of playing music with toddlers, utilizing any tools at hand.

The human voice is a great place to start, and the kitchen cabinet contains a wealth of percussion tools. Whistlings and bells could be the next step, followed by a toy piano for more ambitious stage parents.

Long before conventional music lessons start, jam sessions with your toddler( not of the messy sticky preserved fruit variety) can be an enormous developmental asset.

You might even find it a two-way street if infants can teach adults anything, its how to play. So take the time, play with your child, and play music together.

Along with the newly-confirmed bonus benefits for baby, youll both be connected to music: a fundamental component of a happy and healthy life.

Liam Viney, Piano Performance Fellow, The University of Queensland

Read more: www.iflscience.com

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