We have all heard of the Mozart effect, where the theory is that children benefit (cognitively) from listening to classical music. The reality is, recent studies have shown that despite considerable media attention around the Mozart studies, the effect cannot be reliably demonstrated in children (the results of earlier studies have not be replicated consistently). Meaning, there is no specific link between music listening and cognitive abilities. A review of recent studies on the correlation did conclude that "music can change listeners' emotional state, which, in turn, may impact their cognitive performance" (Music, Health, & Wellbeing, Oxford University Press, 2012). While a child's emotional state can have a significant influence on his or her learning (a topic for another adventure), it isn't exactly what has been driving parents everywhere to play classical music for their infants as early as in utero.
What we do know based on current research is that music instruction (not just passive listening) has a direct benefit on a child's language, motor, and social development.
Sing...Sing...Sing. Regardless of your vocal abilities make sure to sing as often as possible. A younger toddler will eventually start to mimic the sounds you make and an older toddler will acquire language through learning to sing the songs you introduce. Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and other timeless children's songs are an easy way to introduce singing into your toddler's world. Eventually you can take familiar songs and change the words to create new songs about every day activities that are part of your toddler's routine (e.g. washing hands, putting on shoes, etc.)
Move to the beat. Dancing is a wonderful way to develop your child's motor skills, coordination, and sense of rhythm. A younger toddler will enjoy clapping, drumming, and being bounced to the beat with a parent or caregiver. Older toddlers will find excitement in mimicking an adults movements, marching, and jumping. Throw a dance party in the kitchen or during playtime, it is sure to bring a smile and be some of the most memorable moments you have with your toddler.
Make music a social thing. Whether you and your toddler participate in a free music class at your local library or you register for a formal toddler class (such as Music Together or Kindermusik), the opportunity will help your child develop his or her listening skills (following directions, etc.), self-confidence, and social skills.
To put it simply, music is another means to learn through play and a wonderful opportunity to support your toddler's overall development. The facts are this:
The conclusion is simple, it isn't just about listening to music; being active in and with music will have a lasting influence on your toddler's development.
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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