"Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education." - Plato
B and I have always enjoyed making music together. Once he could sit up, we attended music and movement meetups and eventually, Kindermusik Village and Our Time classes till he started nursery this year. If like us, (1) your tot already gets some music exposure in preschool, (2) you think he has potential and interest to go further, but (3) you're uncertain about the differences, cost and logistics of "extra" music classes, why not try some fun yet structured music making at home instead?
Given my thoughts on enrichment, I'm currently not sending B for additional music class until he's ready for specific instrument, dance or vocal lessons. We recently completed a 10-day free trial of BrillKids' Little Musician and plan to adapt it for the year as long as I've got a flexi WAHM schedule. B LOVED it. He asks for "Music class at home? Solfège? Clap along?" and sings random chords throughout the day. Check out the video to see (or rather, hear) what I mean!
Wait a minute. Solfège? Music training? Sounds so hardcore! Also, isn't music best learnt in a group? Well, B gets plenty of social music with his school and playmates. What I'm doing here is more structured music that'll lead into formal lessons in the future. This was easy to try given my music background but after the trial and seeing all the resources available, I'm sure anyone can do it too. No need any "formal" experience or pitch perfection. The key is the right attitude, interest and time :)
Let me explain a bit more....
Why "music training" and why now?
- Music is a whole brain activity, using 90% of the brain, more than any other activity
- Music lessons in childhood do enlarge the brain, with studies showing better grades due to improved concentration, confidence and learning
- Music trains the higher cognitive functions, spatial-temporal reasoning, puzzle-solving, aesthetic literacy, overall perceptual, imaginative, visual and mathematical abilities
- Singing and pitch discrimination are increasingly accepted as tools to learn to read
- Rhythm and tempo control helps kids perform routine activities with more ease and efficiency
- Instrumental practice enhances coordination, concentration, memory, improves eyesight and hearing
What can you do at home? LOTS if you're willing to be involved and do it regularly. Short periods frequently in a relaxed environment work best at the early ages. What I liked about Little Musician is each session lasts only 5 mins every day - with options for more. Build on what your kid knows or enjoys, use activities that develop a good ear like listening, singing and imitation, and have fun performing, composing and improvising together.
Singing and Listening begins while the wee one is in your belly. Once he starts to make vocal sounds, he'll soon imitate you (and others) in singing, so sing often and enthusiastically, together or alone - no need for fancy instruments or to wait until their motor skills improve or you join a class. While background music has its time and place, active listening involves interaction. Engage your kid on what they hear and respond when the songs, tempo or dynamics change. Draw, dance, show pictures or videos of instruments and performers, attend live concerts as often as you can. Concert prices in Singapore are quite pricy but there ARE many free or community events that work just as well. Don't just stick to nursery rhymes and lullabies, introduce classical, jazz, rock, pop, rock, folk, world music too. The younger the child, the wider their taste although they also love repetition :)
Instruments (toy, home-made or real) expose them to different types of sounds: everyday ones, pitched and unpitched. Start with percussion such as drums, shakers and castanets and expose them to "real" instruments like violins, guitars, pianos, other strings, woodwinds and brass, if possible. You don't have to buy - DIY with household items, borrow or exchange with friends, "play" whenever you can on real instruments. Else, brands with good quality, child-sized instruments are Melissa & Doug, Music4Tots, Music Factory products though IMO, these are all more reasonably priced overseas :)
Of course, Little Musician isn't the only home resource out there. I've listed a few that are FREE online, some for music appreciation and other (paid) programs as well:
- Plank Road Publishing Music Concept Videos - fun, animated, FREE videos
- Trebellina, an animated treble clef that teaches babies, toddlers, and preschoolers how to read music, pitch, and instrument names and sounds
- Beethoven's Wig - classical music with lyrics and bits of knowledge added
- Golden Records child's introduction series digitised vinyl records available for free
- Classics For Kids for resources on classical music and composers
- Tuneables music education cartoons for preschoolers
- Moosicology songs, stories and colourful pictures for 0-7 years
Have a music program for under 3s? I'm always open to trial and discuss :)
Source: Little Musician, Moosicology, Wikipedia and other sites from Google!
For updates, reviews and more, like me at Finally Mama on Facebook. I also just started a Pinterest tot music ideas board.