Everyday parents of newborns ask me, “Is my child too young for music class?”
My response is always, “they are never too young,” and here is why.
Music is a powerful force in early childhood. Infants are sensory sponges, their attention is constantly attuned to the sounds around them. Hearing begins in utero by the fourth month, and most children have good hearing by the time they are born. In a recent study, infants were able to pick out minute changes in melodies at the age of only one or two months! While six-month olds may not be ready for math, they are acutely attentive and responsive to musical sounds. That may be why music is the timeless cure to soothe a crying child.
In Music Together®, the infants enjoy feeling the rhythm of the music through their parents bodies as we dance and move to the beat. They learn by watching their Dad clap, and love feeling the drum vibrate as their Mom taps it. While infants love exploring the instruments with their mouths, they eventually realize the instruments are more fun to play than to eat, and begin to experiment with the sounds they can make.
Infants are obviously stimulated by the various musical activities in class; however, it is often between songs that the true magic happens. It is in this silence, that I hear babies and toddlers vocalizing with their extended “ahhs” or “bahbahbahs.” This is more than random sounds, it is their attempts to sing. Their response is purposeful--they waited for the silence then vocalized. It is as if they hear the music, “think” about what they heard, and then try them out on their own voices.
Lynne Ransom of the Center of Music and Young Children reports: “When is my child ready for music class? When she’s born-but we value the opportunity to work with all children between birth and age four, the years when they are completely open to tonal and rhythmic learning, and when they can learn music most efficiently. By providing Music Together classes for your child when he’s very young, you may be ensuring him a life of musical enjoyment. And you may be thrilled listening for the coos and bits of song your child sings, and watching him bounce and dance to his favorite songs.”
Last week, as we all faced each other in a circle to sing “Who’s That?”. I suggested to one mom of an infant to lay her baby facing her. “But then he can’t see you?”, she said. I reminded her that she was her babies favorite singer. Reluctantly, she agreed. As the mom engaged her baby in eye contact and sang to her, her babies face lit up, and he started kicking his feet. He too “cooed” back in response to her singing. The once reluctant mom just beamed. Having his mom sing to him brought this 3 month old stimulation and joy, how can you ever be too young for that?