I get asked this so often! When I meet someone for the first time and it gets to the questions about my profession, the first myth I come across is that learning music = learning an instrument so therefore teaching music = teaching an instrument. So when I tell people I teach babies (and preschool aged children) there is a lot of confusion about how you teach music to babies. I like to refer to it as how you 'do music' with babies and young children. So here's what we do...
We sing songs, we sing rhymes, we play music games, we dance, we play on handheld percussion instruments, we listen to a wide range of music and we learn basic music terminology and skills. It's play-based but rich for the developing brain. What is going on inside the brain is phenomenal and what is going on outside the body seems like simply playing. But play is serious business.
"What a child has heard in his first six years of life cannot be eradicated later. Thus it is too late to begin teaching at school, because a child stores a mass of musical impressions before school age, and if what is bad predominates, then his fate, as far as music is concerned, has been sealed for a lifetime."
Zoltan Kodály (1951) - sourced from John Feierabend "Music and Intelligence in the Early Years" (see full article here.
So often parents wait until primary school to start any form of music education because they believe that their child is too young to learn an instrument prior to this so what else is there to do before then. But because the brain is at its best in terms of building neural pathways between the age of 0-6 years old, learning an instrument in primary school will be more difficult in this scenario. But then the question comes: So how do we do music with children before school if they can't / don't 'learn an instrument?' You take them to a music enrichment class or a music and movement class so that they start to build those neural pathways. What if you can't access a class or can't find a class or it's just too expensive? And really, what do you do in between classes, that week-long wait period for the next class?
Music is learnt like a language. The younger you are, the easier it is to learn a new language and consistency is key. You need to be speaking this language as often as possible. Music is the core of many cultures, so why is it disappearing in our homes? I'm saddened when some children don't know seemingly common nursery rhymes or games. The good news is that parents can enjoy 'doing music' with their own children wherever and whenever they can. It can be fun, it can be spontaneous and it can strengthen any family's bonds and relationships. And strengthening family relationships through music is what I'm all about.
I want to empower parents to 'do music' in their own homes, in their own way, as part of their daily routines but also at a very high level and concentration so that they can be confident that their children are building those neural pathways to enhance their capacity for learning an instrument at a later stage. NB: Learning an instrument is the application of your musical ability and knowledge (i.e. your musicianship).
How do you start? Well, start by singing as often as you can to your children and with your children. Sing anything. Nursery rhymes are fantastic! Singing games are fantastic! Play and sing as much as you can. Make personal jokes and memories out of these moments and enjoy the richness and fun of them.
Then start to incorporate a wider range of listening examples from a wider range of genres, and PLEASE include classical music (music masterworks by the famous composers of the Western Music Tradition and beyond). You may not be a fan but young children LOVE it. Don't close them off to this music just because you don't necessarily understand or appreciate it. You may find some pieces that you love. You can find compilation albums on iTunes as a start.
Once singing, playing and listening to music are set within your family structure and become 'a thing we do', you're at a marvellous stage! This is a beautiful and enriching environment for young children to grow up in with regards to their musical intelligence.
I want you to be your child's first ever music teacher. It's an incredibly rewarding privilege and something that is closer to your grasp than you think.
Happy musings, Freesia Folk!