Many parents have asked me when it is best to start teaching their child music. Generally as early as 5 years old is best, however children younger than this (3 to 4 year olds) may have excellent focus when learning music.
What if you child is younger than 3 years old? Is there anything that you can do to help your child ‘become a natural’?
The answer is yes.
For children younger than 3, the best parents can do is expose children to classical music daily (from 15 minutes to 3 hours). 3 hours you say? Where do you find 3 hours a day when you barely can find time to look after yourself? I hear you.
Prioritising Time – It’s the small things
3 hours may seem like a lot, but 15 minutes here or there adds up. You can put music on when you are driving the car, when you are cooking, when your baby has tummy time, or before they go to sleep. The key is to prepare and be organised.
Try to find opportunities in your day to fit music in. This includes creating an environment where you baby can listen and see someone physically play an instrument, and allowing them to experience the instrument themselves. It doesn’t have to be the same instrument. Singing to your baby also contributes to this time.
Here I use the example of a piano, but this applies to any instrument. You can even guide their little fingers to play a tune. At first their little fingers will be random and clumsy as they hit any keys or even miss. Children model those around them. They may even try to taste the keys, but as their tactile development improves, they will eventually start to use one finger to press keys (and if you have an electric piano, good luck with keeping them away from the setting buttons). Remember that their ability to stay on one task is limited. It is not reasonable to expect a baby to focus too long… on anything.
While in front of a keyboard or piano, they can sit in a high chair that has the tray removed, a pram, your lap, or on the piano chair (with you behind them of course supporting them, or at least ready to catch them if they are not ready to sit on their own). Buy them a mini version of the instrument you play so they can model you.
If your child is exposed to music before 5 years of age, the chances of the child having perfect pitch are significantly greater.
There are mixed conclusions from research whether playing music when the baby is in the womb has any benefit. In the third trimester your baby will be able to hear the music, and there are studies that suggest that babies remember the music they listened to in the womb.
There is no need to go overboard. Your baby will have plenty of time to listen to music after they come into the world.