Infants & Toddlers (0-5)
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 during which an incredible number of skills are learned. In this time you have an opportunity to maximize your child’s brain development by exposing them to as much as possible. However, the best thing you can do for your child’s overall development is bring music into their life. Exposure to music brings countless benefits for cognitive development in the first years of life, helping to set up the neural processes for speech and language, as well as building emotional intelligence, motor skills, and much more.
To understand the true impact that music has on a child's brain development, we must first have a basic understanding of how a baby’s brain functions and develops. At birth, a child’s brain is bursting with millions of neurons that will start to form synapses (connections) at a very rapid rate, which is critical for learning new skills.
Another important fact to consider is that the ability for a child to hear begins before birth. The ears and the nose are the very first sense organs to develop in the womb, and are the most developed sense organs at the time of birth. Infants use their two most highly developed senses, the ear and the nose, to connect to their surroundings. This is why a newborn baby can easily recognize their mother’s voice and smell. Because the ears are so acutely developed when a child is born, most children will gravitate towards music.
Music is an organized system of sound energy which, when entering into the ear canal, is converted into an electrical signal and travels to the brain. In turn, this energy promotes, enhances, and strengthens the neural connections, which are actually electric connections. Exposing a child to music at this early age will create more neural connections and strengthen the neural pathways in the brain, particularly those that organize speech and language; let us not forget that music is another language.
Music is a language and language has music; what grammar is to language, harmony is to music. The emotion within a piece of music is defined by its harmony. One doesn’t have to be an expert to have an emotional connection with a piece of music. Even an infant can feel that connection to a piece of music, frowning to a sad song (in a minor mode), or smiling to a happy song (in a major mode).
While simply exposing your child to music is one of the best decisions you can make, the best way to fully reap the benefits of music for them is by introducing them into a music class designed for this age, most commonly referred to as Mommy & Me music classes. This type of class setting is a great first classroom experience as it allows a child to learn and explore through different activities. These activities will help establish structure and routine, promote language development, social skills, focus and coordination, build vocabulary, and much more, while also learning the fundamentals of music. It is important to keep in mind that the key to success with any music program is consistency.
Many new parents may not realize how much an infant can gain from music education between the ages of zero and five. However, by exposing your child to music as early as possible, you are maximizing the window of early brain development. During this period we are discovering how our children operate; how their motor skills, brain, language skills, etc. are developing. Exposing your child to music, ideally through a Mommy & Me music program, before the age of five will contribute to helping them overcome any developmental obstacles that might arise before they even present themselves. Furthermore, music instruction during this time will provide the foundation that will help set the child up for success in their musical journey and much more in the years to come.