We are exposed to music throughout our lives, from birth all the way through our adult years. Whether or not one pursues music as a hobby or a profession, this art form plays a role in every person’s life. This is not a new concept, but why is it so important? And as we tend to see less focus on music and the arts in school, why is it important for parents to expose their children to music at all ages?
“Music is our social glue — it connects each human, one to another,” says Rachel Kramer, president of Music Learning Center, Inc., and CEO of AlivenArts in Cincinnati. “Research validates that the human voice was used for singing a million-plus years ago as the first form of communication, and that this communication predates the use of spoken language.”
Let’s explore the language of music and how it impacts our children, as well as what parents can do to support music exposure and education in their child’s life.
Music is Integral to a Child’s Development
Music begins to play a role in a child’s life before they are even born. And of course, once they are in the world, music surrounds them. The connection to music is natural and is actually integrated in a child’s development.
“Research shows that the exposure to music from early childhood onward helps children to speak more clearly, develop a larger vocabulary, and strengthen social and emotional skills,” says Julie Montgomery, executive director of Linton Chamber Music. Music education and appreciation are the focus of the Peanut Butter & Jam Sessions hosted by Linton throughout Cincinnati.
As a child grows, music continues to have an impact. “The goal is to light that spark for enjoying and appreciating music,” Montgomery says. “When children enjoy classical music at such a young age, it can open their minds in so many ways.”
This impact, as well as introducing a form of self-expression, is an integral part of a child’s development, and music is one way we can encourage them.
Children of All Ages Benefit from Music
We often associate the benefits of music with babies and young children, but all ages can benefit from this exposure.
“Positively or negatively, music affects everyone,” says Amy Dennison of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. “Music can help a child understand a concept or idea. A child, who may feel something but doesn’t have the vocabulary to express it, may use sounds to communicate. Without a lot of explanation, children will bring music into their lives and they will find ways for it to serve many needs.”
While this everyday connection to music can be wonderful, it does make a difference how children are exposed to music. Consistent and positive educational experiences are key. “Studies show that early musical training can actually improve executive functioning, a strong predictor of academic achievement,” Montgomery says. “Bottom line: Music can enrich your child’s life!”
Parents Can Use Music To Support Their Child’s Development
Parents naturally begin to use music to support their child’s development from birth. “Young children love to make sounds,” Dennison says, “so create opportunities for sound discovery.”
As children grow, exposing them to a variety of music is a great way to open their eyes and ears, as well as introduce them to a new form of expression. Parents can also consider encouraging music lessons, as there are many benefits, some of which are unexpected.
“If your child shows an interest in learning to play an instrument, find a way to encourage it,” Montgomery says. “If you can afford lessons, find a good teacher, and get them to practice each day. Learning an instrument teaches discipline, patience, persistence and builds confidence.”
While parents often encourage musical interaction at a young age, it’s also something to keep in mind as children grow older and begin to face stressful situations in school and everyday life, as music can be an outlet and a growing opportunity for them.
Music is indeed a universal language that we can all appreciate. A baby’s first sounds are more aligned with singing than speaking, and that connection to this art form doesn’t stop there. Music is a form of expression, a way to learn and a tool to build confidence. Music is a part of our everyday lives and as parents, this art form can be supported and encouraged to further a child’s development.
“Equipping our humans, of all ages, with the necessary tools to be creative, curious and concerned with holistic living is most easily and readily available through music education and participation — where all are welcome, and everyone benefits,” Kramer says.