Music. Whether through singing in unison in a choir, or reading notes in order to practice acoustic guitar, practicing music attributes to major milestones in an individual’s development. I want to continue from theme of last month’s post about teaching our kids to listen, because so many studies have focused on the importance of music in early childhood development.

Lili M. Levinowitz has rigorously researched the value of music education in childhood development. In a 1998 paper titled The Importance of Music in Early Childhood, she attributed the development of critical life skills to activities such as singing in kindergarten.

From infancy to about age six, children process and sort an endless stream of information. They do this through playtime, interacting with the exciting sounds, images, and symbols of their culture. Just as this age is critical for learning how to interpret the world and learn language, it is when children unscramble the aural landscape of music. In these years, we develop mental cues necessary to interpret our surrounding culture; thus, music.

Plus, learning music helps children mature emotionally and behaviorally. Playing instruments helps with fine motor skills. According to an article in The Washington Post, a 2014 study investigated how playing an instrument may even enhance brain development. Researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine analyzed brain development in children who play a musical instrument. James Hudziak, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, said, “What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument, it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”

So, children need music!  But not every toddler needs to be enrolled in a Suzuki program to benefit from an early musical education. In fact, the best way for young children to engage with music is through play, as Dr. Levinowitz emphasizes.

From the ages of two and three, informal music-making between parents and their kid is the best way to benefit from the resource of music. Activities such as making up songs together, using kitchen objects as instruments, or even a composing melodies on a small piano, can lead to improved social skills, advanced literacy, numeracy, and higher emotion and attention regulation down the road.