As an early childhood music educator, I have heard many parents explain their decisions why or why not to register their toddlers and preschoolers in music classes. Other than reasons of time/schedule conflicts, their logic is often that if they only have the budget for one activity for their toddler/preschooler, then those resources should go toward an athletic program (gymnastics, soccer, Gymboree classes, etc.) rather than a music program. When I hear this reasoning time and again, the response inside my head is usually something like this: “Oh, I understand, music is always the first thing that gets cut from the educational budget. We’re used to it.” I see the graphs showing the highest paid employees in most states in the US are the university or professional football and basketball coaches and I can understand why the parents want their children to excel in athletics.
So, I thought I might put together a summarial side-by-side benefit analysis. This is by no means comprehensive to all music programs and all sports programs, but is limited to my research and experience. I have advanced degrees in music education and over twenty years of teaching experience. I am also a mother of three and have had my own children participate in 3 and 4 year-old soccer, mommy and me and preschool gymnastics, preschool dance, swim lessons, little league t-ball, baseball, basketball, golf, and tae kwon do programs. Obviously, I see that there are benefits to both, and have a great respect for the benefits of physical education programs. What I don’t think is widely known among communities of young parents is that early childhood music classes can provide many of the same benefits as these programs, along with others. Below is a side-by-side (not exhaustive) comparison of what two theoretical programs might provide.
Research has shown time and again that participating in active music making, not just passive listening, changes and develops new pathways in the brain. It stimulates intellectual, social and emotional development in ways we are just beginning to understand. Many early childhood music programs incorporate not only active music making, but also movement experiences including beginning dance, improvisatory movement, and play as well as language development skills, using both sign language and foreign language songs. The benefits of early childhood music programs are numerous and clear, yet the message still needs to get out to parents today that these programs are available, accessible, and most importantly, providing a chance for families to connect with their children through the bond of music making. If you are a parent of a young child reading this and weighing your options, do your research and of course, always make choices that are best for your family and children.
For more information about early childhood music programs available in your area, please visit www.musictogether.com which has a class locator on their website. Mary Lynne Bennett teaches Music Together in Allison Park, PA, runs a private piano studio and teaches on the piano faculty at Duquesne University.