Well, you can probably guess where I'm going with this... but it's not down the path of... "music's great because it makes your child smarter. It helps them participate with others. It helps with math. It helps with reading." That’s like saying: ice cream is important. It allows you to make a milkshake and provides a catalyst for sprinkles and cherries. It’s really important for chocolate, providing a vehicle for this important food item to be presented. Are all those things true? Sure. But, when it comes down to it, ice cream is just pretty stinkin’ great in and of itself.
Same thing with music. As we musicians say, music for music's sake.
Why bother with music so early? Why not wait until my kids get it in school?
Often by then, it's too late.
A famous composer, Zoltan Kodaly, when discussing the importance of music in early childhood, made this comment:
"What a child has heard in the first six years of life cannot be eradicated later. Thus, it is too late to begin teaching at school, because a child stores a mass of musical impressions before school age; and if what is bad predominates, then his fate, as far as music is concerned, has been sealed for a lifetime."
Any research will tell you that the most critical development in a child is between 0-7 years. These are precious, formative years in children.
Think of a flower - Changing from a seed into a flower is extremely complex - and the most dramatic change is in its first part of life - morphing from a kernel to roots, stem and bud.
Each child is born with the natural ability to talk and problem-solve, they are also born with an innate musical ability. This musical potential in each child is vulnerable to positive influences and to negative ones.... but perhaps the most common negative affect is that of neglect.
We must help to form and shape our child's musical ability. All the materials are there in his/her brain for forming melody, experiencing movement and rhythm, expressing ideas, thoughts and emotions through sound... but they can not draw them out and organize them on their own. They need someone to draw these qualities out and nurture them to healthy growth.
An imperfect analogy is that of puzzle pieces scattered on a table… they can form into a cohesive, beautiful puzzle.. but the pieces need to be organized in order for the wonderful whole to be brought about. Children need help to make sense of their musical abilities by engaging in stimulating musical experiences.
Many kids only get about 3 corners of their puzzle set up because there is not enough stimulation of their musical being.
Think about how you teach your child to speak or read. Would you expect him/her to learn the language without you ever speaking to them or using inappropriate grammar to teach them? Certainly not. They learn directly from you. They need our proactive leadership and example in music as well.
So, before it's too late, get involved in musically crafting your child. You don't need to be an expert, but seek to grow in your own musical ability or creativity so that you can give the precious gift of a musically stimulated mind to your child.