THE POWER OF MUSIC IN EARLY YEARS

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PUBLISHED BY RIVERSIDE TRAINING (SPALDING) LTD

A recent story in Nursery World about free music therapy training being offered to nurseries got me thinking about how important music can be in children's development during their formative years.

Many people forget that listening to music can begin in the womb. Incredibly, we now know that new born babies can remember tunes and sound sequences heard whilst in utero.

And from birth, as parents we instinctively use music to calm and soothe our children, to express our love, and to engage and interact.

Through singing, moving, dancing and listening to music with young babies parents and carers can reinforce their relationships and be aware of little ones' emerging voices, response to musical toys and ability to listen and respond emotionally to music played to or with them.

As they grow, musical activity and stimulation engages toddlers and can - in my personal experience - prove a useful tool to distract a fractious tot.

Parents can build on these natural instincts by learning how music can impact child development, benefit learning and improve social skills.

Recent neuroscientific studies have shown that every child with healthy brain development in Early Years is born with the innate potential to benefit from music's brain boosting potential.

A 2016 study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute found that musical experiences in childhood can actually accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas of acquiring language and reading skills, helping youngsters to learn the sounds and meanings of words.

And, just as it does for adults, music helps strengthen memory skills.

Other studies show that Early Years music-making activities draw on various areas of the brain simultaneously, providing one of the most effective influences on brain development at this key stage.

Music is a multisensory experience that involves three ways of learning - auditory, visual and kinaesthetic. As the brain is also a multisensory organ this could, at least, partially explain the remarkable benefits of music making as it activates all three of the brain's cortices - motor, visual and auditory.

As Greek philosopher Plato said: “I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.”

But it's not just about academic achievement and intelligence.

Exposure to music has many other benefits - it ignites self confidence, self-awareness, creativity, coordination and enhances gross and fine motor skills.

Being around music is clearly important for children and in an Early Years setting singing songs and listening to music should be part of the everyday routine.

Different genres of music can be used for many different purposes, whether to calm and soothe or encourage children to move freely and express themselves.

There is no doubt that the earlier children are introduced to music, the greater the rewards.

But, for me, the most important benefit off all is that music is a source of sheer joy and pleasure. It is a universal language which transcends age or language and can be enjoyed by all.