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Music Madness

Music is not only an important part of our environment and lives, but it is also a beautiful way to enhance your child's brain development. Imagine your child as a foetus. Within your womb, your child hears the timbre of your heartbeat, which yet holds intricate possibilities. What you hear from your external environment, your child perceives too.

Studies have shown that babies who hear sounds in the wombs still follow the familiar strains as they grow up, even till they become adults. Imagine what this means for your child. He already has got a head start in life being a listener, starting from his tiny life within your womb. And when your child is born, he is born into a world of sound.

It all holds numerous possibilities when you think about the one tantalising possibility: how music and sounds may just be part of the sensory environment that stimulates your child towards `smartness: It's not a new notion, of course. In 1997, Don Campbell, author of the book The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit, sparked off a boon for classical music CDs that mums could play for their babies and children.

The studies documented in his book implied that classical music could bring on improved memory and awareness. Mozart makes one smarter, so goes the theory. It benefits mental development. It improves spatial-temporal reasoning by using the same neurons used for mathematics and sensible problem-solving. 

It calms. If classical music can do all that for an adult, what more for a young child who is experiencing exciting growth spurts in this present stage in his life? Music may just be the catalyst to turn on that growth at high speed. Critics sitting on the other side of the fence, however, dispute the notion that listening to music alone will help boost the grey matter. Their argument is that music turbo-charges brain cells as it brings on a feel-good state of relaxation in the music listener and that a similar stimulus could well do the trick, too.

Music Isn't Magic, It's A Tool

Learning To Listen To Music

Suffice to say that if your kid simply hates classical music in the first place, it won't magically jack up the brain synapses by virtue of it being classical music. The Mozart effect popularised the notion that classical music is de rigeur for smart brainy kids. But who's to say that classical music is the only genre of music that offers any bright sparks for brain boosting?

To dismiss all other types of music as ultimately inferior and therefore replaying your `Classical Music for Budding Classic Genius' CD over and over again to a bored kid just isn't the way to go either. You may start off your child gently on calming, soothing, classical music, but always observe carefully when he tires of it. Then it may be time to introduce a whole new spectrum of speculative listening. Be it jazz, pop, or even rock, music will be music.

Learning To Make Music

If passive listening doesn't work, making music, or at the very least, learning to make music might. Parents should not only consider bringing up their children on a music-rich diet, but also learn to play music, too. (We mean instruments, not hi-fi sets, that's for sure!

As far back as a decade ago, results from an American study found that preschoolers who had piano lessons performed 34 per cent better in spatial and temporal reasoning ability than preschoolers who learnt to use computers instead. Also, previously disadvantaged preschoolers display dramatic improvements in their spatial reasoning ability after undergoing music training.

Music Improves Learning

Studies show that learning music aids the growth of corpus callosum that portion in the brain that bridges the two hemispheres. Musicians who train before they are seven years' old are found to have 10-15% thicker corpus callosum compared to non-musicians. A larger corpus callosum implies more vava vroom brainpower - just think of a super-highway with brain waves instead of cars. When communication between the two hemispheres is speeded up, the person's motor control is improved. Is it any surprise?

Learning music can do wonders for improving the humble brain's capacity for verbal memory too. Psychologists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong ran verbal memory tests on 90 boys (between six and 15 years of age to see how many words they recalled from a list. He found out that those with music training had significantly better verbal memory compared to their untrained counterparts. The verbal memory is likely to be greater with more training.

How Can You Introduce Music To Your Child?

There is no hard and fast rule on introducing music to your child. After all, if you interpret the word `music' broadly, you can think of the world as a living, breathing orchestra. The wind in the trees, rustling leaves, birds chirping, even the sound of cars wheezing on the road all these form to become everyday music of sorts. Unconsciously, your child might already be perceiving and learning this aural commotion that so many of us take for granted!

"But I haven't introduced him to any music yet"; you start to say. He might have already outrun you on that! When you think about it, it's not all that hard to introduce music to your child in simple forms like whistling, humming, and clapping or to carry a tune. Notice how your child spontaneously sings along and breaks out in a playful dance to his favorite cartoon on TV or wails a tune or two at play.

It's something like that avant-garde dance group Stomp, where members put their bodies and ordinary objects to sound use, creating an impressive world of percussive beats from physical theatre. The limit is your child's imagination.

Here's What You Can Do As A Parent, To Make The Best Use Of Music To Help Your Child

Make Music Together

Even within the house, you can have loads of fun with your child by making and playing with 'unorthodox' musical instruments using household materials. Remember shaking plastic bottles filled with hard red beans when you were young? That's one! Anything that makes noise works!

Play A Variety Of Music

As mentioned earlier, classical music may be the obvious choice to play to your child for that extra stimulating push in his brain cells. Still, there are more genres of music out there. Play a variety so your child doesn't get bored. It may even hone his musical taste at an early age, and he'll be sophisticated to identify good stuff from a mile away well into his life and be truly inspired. Be pleasantly surprised if your three-year-old turns up his nose at Britney Spears' latest song.

Move It

Not just the mouth. The body too! Heard the term 'music and movement' before? Don't forget to encourage your child to have fun with music by dancing and swaying to that infectious beat! Educational programmes with a strong musical slant usually have musical segments, which can draw howls of delight from children.

Rhyme And Rhythm

If your child is feeling a little yakky (as most naturally inquisitive children area he should take to sing-song rhymes like a duck takes to water. These can be very attractive to children as the similar rhyming and repetitive sounds make for joyous times with the fun pronunciation. Researchers say that the ability of a young child to perceive and distinguish phonetic sounds is enhanced when he breaks into song and uses rhythms.

Learn From The Pros

When he's ready to pick up an instrument of his choice with formal music lessons, sign him up! There are a number of good music schools in Singapore who are only too happy to conduct music lessons for young kids. Let your child make his choice whether it's piano, violin, guitar, trumpet or harmonica. Don't force him to take an instrument that you want him to learn. Letting him pick up an instrument that he wishes to learn is far more likely to retain his zest for taking his music lessons seriously and getting more fun out of them.


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