Recently, I was talking to a mother about starting her daughter on a music program. Her daughter is 6 months old and she asked me what program I recommended. To be quite frank, neither of my sons did any music programs that young. The earliest formal music program I tried was Kindermusik with Gavin when he was 18 months and it did not go well. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the program per se. It was just that Gavin didn’t like it and I didn’t see the point of forcing him to do something he didn’t enjoy.
After pondering over the question of music programs again, I feel that if I wanted to do an enrichment program with my baby, I would not choose a music program for the following reasons:
- Most, if not all, of the activities that they do in the class can be done at home.
- Most of the materials and resources they provide are inexpensive and easily replicated at home.
- At such a young age, there is no interaction between my baby and any of the other babies. In fact, at such a young age, babies seek the attention and interaction of their caregivers.
- At such a young age, children don’t need to be exposed to structured learning environment such as a class room. In fact, I found that this was one of Gavin’s primary objections to Kindermusik. He hated the feeling of being locked up in a classroom and kept wanting to leave. It wasn’t the activities that he did not like because he was curious and interested in what was happening but too timid to join the group. Then again, some young children enjoy these learning environments. Although Gavin disliked class, Gareth loves going to classes. Similarly, I have seen other children in Gavin’s classes enjoying class and those in Gareth’s class who didn’t enjoy class.
Personally, if I were to send my baby for an enrichment class, I’d like to know that there is something that the class offers that I cannot replicate at home, or at least not without a large financial or time commitment on my part. As far as music enrichment programs for very young children go, it is easy to do these at home.
Some of the things I have done with both Gavin and Gareth:
- Listening to a broad range of music – classical, contemporary, theme songs, educational songs, nursery rhymes, musicals, and so on. Anything and everything is fair game.
- As well as listening, I sing along to the songs until they are old enough to join in.
- We also dance to the music. When they are babies, I’ll carry them and sway with the music so they can feel the rhythm of dance and the beat of the music.
- We play with noise makers which can be as basic as beans in an old drink bottle (resembling maracas) to little toy drums, toy pianos, and basic musical instruments like the RM5 recorder I bought from Daiso, and the harmonica my Dad bought Gavin. If you have a piano in the house, let them tinker on it.
- If you don’t have any music instruments at home, take the kids along to a music shop and expose them to the various different musical instruments available. If the store owners will allow, let them “play” the instruments. Name all the instruments you can recognise.
- Go online and search for pictures of other instruments that you cannot find in physical form and show them to your children. Search youtube for samples of music using these instruments. Wikipedia also has recordings of some of the more common instruments available.
- Take the kids to a physical performance. I took the kids to watch a performance of Peter Pan the Musical and they really enjoyed it.
- You can try music games like Soft Mozart and Piano Wizard. You can also play music apps on the iPhone and iPad (like Baby Piano, Kids Xylophone and Finger drums!).
- Youtube also has great music clips like the following one from Larry Sanger:
At the end of the day, where really young children are concerned, it is really just about exposure and experience. If they develop an appreciation for music, you can move them onto more formal music programs where they can learn how to play and instrument and/or music theory. If you want to try something at home, there is KinderBach (by the way, the coupon is still available since there were no takers), and Piano Wizard/Soft Mozart. There are a variety of other programs available as well but I have not really looked into them.
If you are keen for your child to learn an instrument, the youngest program available that I know of is the Suzuki method. Other programs are Kindermusik and Musikgarten (which I feel are fairly similar), and the Yamaha Junior Music Program (what I’ve explored are only options that are available in Malaysia). There is also the Bentley Music Academy located in the Bentley building near Ikano/The Curve. BMA offers Musikgarten for younger children and a formal music program for a variety of instruments. I like what BMA offers because of the continuity. If you do send your child for Musikgarten, once they graduate from that program, they can move on to the older music programs. They also encourage music performance which helps to develop your child’s stage experience and a great confidence builder.