At the age of three, children are often developing important cognitive skills in attention, self-control, and working memory. What’s more, there is good evidence that early childhood can be the most valuable time to start a music education. The earlier a child begins their music education, the more likely they are to have better motor skills as an adult. They are also more likely to develop perfect pitch. In addition, the length of
musical training can predict perceptual abilities, including how faithfully the brain can represent the sounds it hears. Music training in childhood can even help protect against hearing deficits later in life—even if you don’t touch an instrument for thirty years in the middle. The benefits of music education can show up quite early as well, with perceptual benefits shown in preschoolers and school age children. Again, these perceptual benefits aren’t just limited to music—they can help with speech discrimination and the ability to focus attention—a vital skill for children in a noisy classroom setting.
FIND A BALANCE
However, one of the hardest parts about being a parent is finding the right balance between what your child wants to do and what your child should do. In the Tradewell-Hutchins household, there used to be a mini-standoff about brushing teeth every night—“Do I have to do it?” “For how long?” “Can I just leave the toothbrush in my mouth and not move it?” As parents, we drew a line in the sand, though, because it was important to us and to them, not so much because we cared about brushing baby teeth with fluoride-free toothpaste, but mostly because we cared about establishing a routine around brushing. Nowadays, we still get some pushback, but at least there’s the expectation that it’s part of the bedtime routine. It becomes easier and easier every day. With music, too, there are similar kinds of struggles, and I can’t help but think back to when I was a child, with my mother cajoling, nagging, or downright forcing me to practice the piano. And though I resented it at the time, it proved to be useful, both for my career and social life (having met my wife through the beauty of light opera). Ultimately, it’s the conjunction of these two aspects of music—the work and the fun—that make it such a powerful tool.