One of the biggest questions for parents of young children interested in music is when to start and what instrument to choose. With a dizzying array of early childhood music programs available, how do you decide? And what does music learning even look like in young children?
Let’s admit it. We’ve all come across social media videos of tiny children accomplishing wonderous musical feats. “Amazing one year old child plays a piano concert”. “Awesome! 3-year old child prodigy plays drums like a pro!”. “Professional Violinists React to a 2-year-old PRODIGY”. It’s irresistible not to take a look and be astounded. But is it helpful? Not really.
Did you know that a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old have significantly different skeletal structures in their hands? Even the difference between a 6-year-old and a 14-year old is huge! In a 3-year-old, the bones of the wrist are still mostly cartilage. And the spaces (if you were to look at an x-ray) are where muscles and tendons will change through the years. Playing an instrument is very much a physical activity. It requires fine motor control. And that is something that develops over time.
Music is also language. Think of how a child learns to read. Before written language is introduced, children have been hearing it (listening) and testing it (babbling stage) before becoming verbal. The same is true of music. Children develop musically by listening, experimenting, creating and eventually producing it themselves.
Back to the point of what age should a child begin. Of course, you can find music instrumental programs for young children. Suzuki is one of the most celebrated. In order for the lessons to be successful, parents must take the journey along with their child(ren) as they are important co-teachers. Of course, the involvement of a caregiver in reinforcing music at home is crucial. Again, because music is like language, having it at home reinforces musical growth. But Suzuki isn’t right for every family.
And that is where music programs for early childhood come in. Child(ren) and caregivers can playfully grow together. Early childhood music has been a passion for me since completing my Master of Music in piano. As a pianist, I wanted to explore how to create the musical building blocks children needed to become joyful musicians. I made a study of the work of great music composers and educators such as Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze. These methods all have wonderful things to offer. JOMP began as a music and movement program back in 1986. So we truly value it’s importance in the music learning continuum.
JOMP’s new Saturday music program for children under age 7, Jomp Start was created to provide a music learning experience based on the best practices. The goal of the classes is to lead children and caregivers through a joyful music experience that grows and develops through each stage. Tot JOMP, our earliest program begins with the fundamentals of pulse, rhythm, melody, and age-appropriate instruments. Meet the Instrument for kinders incorporates musical play while children creatively investigate percussion, keyboard, strings and woodwinds. And all that leads naturally to small group instrument classes.
So when do you start? Just like babies first steps, start early. By the time your child is 6 or 7 they will have gained a music foundation that will set them up for success. And, just as importantly, they will have experienced instruments in a way that will engage them and help families understand what instrument will be a great match.