I am not a naturally musical person. Unlike some of my fellow friends and homeschooling moms, I never had a selection of songs available for any situation that might come up. My children never saw me break into song at the drop of a hat. But, I do have fond memories of singing church songs with my mother and older sister (who played guitar and was in a folk group) when I was a young girl and remember my mother singing lullabies to me as a child. I wanted to give my children at least some of that positive association with song, and so, I too sang lullabies to my children every night before bed and to calm them when they were fussy as babies. I enjoyed putting on a CD and dancing with them in my arms.
When my oldest son was two years old, a mom friend invited me to go with her to a Music Together class. It was a fun activity to do with my two young sons. They enjoyed getting to sing, play the instruments, and hang out with other children. It provided me with a much-needed opportunity for socialization as well as life with two little children as a stay-at-home mom can feel quite isolating. We would go to the classes for the next two years. It turns out that early exposure to music provided much more than a fun morning out of the house.
Scientific research has shown that early exposure to music is essential to a child’s development. Joan Koenig, a classically-trained musician and founder of a music-based kindergarten and preschool, shares some of that research in The Musical Child: Using the Power of Music to Raise Children who are Happy, Healthy, and Whole which focuses on children from birth through age five.
Babies and young children thrive on human contact. Music engages the emotional and reactive part of the brain. Your baby and small children want to move and groove with you. Music can help your child develop empathy, an important part of being able to connect with people throughout life. Learning rhythm can also help with language acquisition. It can also help with developing a child’s natural creative gifts, a tool that will serve them well wherever life takes them.
Koenig is quick to point out that you do not need to purchase anything or take part in a formal program (although you certainly can if you want to) in order to reap these benefits. What young children need most is someone willing to sing with them and improvise with them and let them bang on pots and pans or other simple instruments. Formal music instruction can come later. This is the age of exploration.
As Koenig states:
The irony is that if we listened to what the carefully researched, study-backed hard science is telling us, we would not need to purchase a thing. We would be content to allow our children to grow and develop through loving, playful, and musical exchanges with us, our families, and our communities.
Koenig offers many resources on her website: https://www.joankoenig.com/
If you are interested in a Catholic faith-based musical resource for young children, check out Making Music, Praying Twice.
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