Music for the Little Youngsters

by Maree Zollinger

It may sound surprising that Musikgarten offers classes for babies and toddlers, not just children, but when we approach the “why” behind it, it’s not so surprising. Let’s review the benefits of learning to play an instrument.

Physical Health Benefits:

  • Deep breathing – Breathing from your diaphragm (like when singing or playing a wind instrument) strengthens the lungs and respiratory system. It also helps reduce unhealthy stress.
  • Developed immune system – “There is increasing evidence that making music enhances the immunological response, which enables us to fight viruses.” (Cicetti)
  • Refined listening – Learning music improves our ability to isolate sounds as they occur – and not just the sounds of instruments!
  • Cognitive retention – The American Psychology Association found in a study that those who learned to play an instrument in their youth performed better on several cognitive tests than those who had no musical experience. They concluded that learning to read music increases cognitive retention as people age. (Pappas)

Mental Health Benefits:

  • Mental performance – Playing an instrument teaches the brain to perform well under certain amounts of stress, improves long-term memory, and can slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s. (Costandi)
  • Concentration – Learning an instrument activates the parts of the brain that help us focus.
  • Mathematics – Theory and counting begin neural pathways that assist with finding patterns and connections in math.
  • Time Management – We learn through practice, which requires us to set aside time for that intent. This is a great way to develop self-discipline.
  • Reading skills – Sight reading increases our ability to process information in more than just music.

Emotional Health Benefits:

  • Self-expression – Playing an instrument is a healthy way to express and address emotions. “Research shows that making music can lower blood pressure, decrease heart rate, reduce stress, and lessen anxiety and depression.” (Cicetti)
  • Achievement – Music is a simple way to learn to set and achieve goals. Achievement is a powerful emotion and can be an effective motivator because it can help increase confidence.
  • Building healthy relationships – Music is a great way to meet new friends, spend time with old friends, and connect with people whom we might not connect with otherwise.
The harmonica is lots of fun for little ones too!

To summarize what this all means, early music exposure increases the likelihood a child will be interested in music classes and activities, which result in benefits across the board from performance in school to emotional well-being and more. How early can we influence with music, and what are some simple ways to introduce music? It’s never too early! Here are some ideas for providing babies and toddlers with music opportunities:

  • Make a game of imitating different sounds. (Animals, machines, whatever you can think of!)
  • Drum, whistle, hum, dance, or sing along when there’s music playing. (They’ll associate music with positive experiences and will already be used to participating if they take classes later on.)
  • Recite or sing nursery rhymes. Leave out words or phrases for your child to fill in.
  • Experiment with sounds. Try sticks vs spoons on a surface. Try an oatmeal bucket vs a cardboard box.
  • Let them try simple instruments, like the kazoo. You can buy or make them, and they’re inexpensive.
  • Play a listening pattern game. (You can sing, drum, whistle…) Try short patterns for your little one to repeat. Show him how it’s done by repeating him first.
  • Change the words to familiar songs. (Try using funny sounds and voices to make it fun and silly.)

These are just a few ideas to get you started. You don’t need to go out of your way to expose your baby to music. There is music all around us! Use your imagination and what you have on hand and you’ll be surprised what you can come up with. As your child grows and benefits from your efforts, you won’t regret it.