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Is It Ever Too Early To Start Learning Music? E-I-E-I-No! by Abby Connors


Early Childhood Music Specialist Connors419@aol.com


it came about when a school where I was teaching older preschoolers and kindergar- teners requested a music class for their very little ones. Now I see music classes for babies and toddlers everywhere – sometimes in a day care or preschool setting, sometimes in private music schools. It seems like everyone is hopping on this baby bandwagon. But is it really beneficial for babies and toddlers to attend music classes? All children have unlimited creative


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potential. Yet in my twenty years of teach- ing music enrichment classes to young children, I’ve noticed something. In almost every class, there’s one or two or three chil- dren who seem to be absolutely exploding with musicality. These are the ones who dance like dervishes at the slightest provo- cation, beat on the drum with confidence and enthusiasm, and sing along exuberantly – even when they don’t know the words! They make up their own words, or happily sing nonsense syllables without a trace of self-consciousness. Where does this kind of unstoppable creativity come from? DNA only builds the nuts and bolts of our minds, like Geppetto built Pinocchio – it takes a little fairy dust to bring real musi- cal creativity to life. This fairy dust comes in the form of caring, involved teachers – one or a handful – who share their time, energy and imaginations.


Benefits Of Early Music Activities Numerous studies have shown that


participating in musical activities can in- crease young children’s cognitive skills such as reasoning and memory. Playing and lis- tening to music actually promotes healthy brain development. “Nothing activates


TEMPO


hen I first started leading music classes for toddlers, it was relatively rare. Usually


as many areas of the brain as music,” says researcher Donald A. Hodges, Covington Distinguished Professor of Music Education and director of the Music Research Insti- tute at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Because music is so enjoyable and exciting for little ones, it’s a uniquely ef- fective way to organize their thinking skills and help them be ready to learn. Making music together builds bonds of


trust and communication, and strengthens the feeling of belonging in a group. And music activities are so much fun that tod- dlers are motivated to behave appropriately to join in. When young children sing, move, and play instruments together, they’re prac- ticing social skills like taking turns, respect- ing others’ boundaries, and listening to oth- ers’ ideas in a relaxed, playful setting. These social skills are vital for emotional well-be- ing and success in school. Toddlers love to move to music – to


march, stretch, stomp their feet, wave their arms, bounce , clap or just dance to the beat. Music is a great way to keep young children active – even when the weather keeps them inside. Research suggests that children who are physically active in school are more like- ly to be physically active at home. Moving to music is a wonderful way to keep chil- dren fit and prevent childhood obesity. There’s no


right or wrong way to shake maracas or tap on a tambou- rine. There are no rules to fol- low or complex directions to understand. Music gives tod- dlers


the free- dom to think, 48


imagine, and create on their own. The joy of expressing one’s individuality supports every aspect of learning and makes every day more meaningful and fun. Every toddler needs and deserves the


joy of music - and the intellectual and phys- ical benefits of singing, listening, playing instruments, and moving to music.


Musical Play It’s never too early for children to enjoy


the creative benefits of musical play. Even babies respond to bouncing rhymes, “pat- a-cake” and “peek-a-boo.” As they grow to be toddlers, teachers can make galloping, rhythmic horsey rides, sing nursery rhymes while clapping to the beat, and dance and sing with puppets, stuffed animals, and simple dolls. They can get on the floor and look in toddlers’ eyes and be part of their playtime world. Toddlers don’t need brand names or TV


characters to play with, or even CD’s (though some children’s entertainers are excellent). When I first heard about smartphone apps with games for toddlers, I was appalled. There will be plenty of time to learn to press buttons for a quick fix of entertainment. What a growing, creative mind needs are loving, playful adults and instruments that


Teaching Tips Featured on NAfME’s My Music Class! Here are some examples:


• Designing Effective Rehearsals • Creating a Student Handbook


• Developing a Relationship with Administration • Your First Day of Class


Visit musiced.nafme.org/my-music-class to browse tips. OCTOBER 2013


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