Is my child too old for another semester of Music Together® ?
I've been asked many times by parents with children around 3 years old, if they think they're getting too old for our classes? These are parents who for the most part started our classes when their child was just a baby and for some, have taken all 9 collections/semesters. The answer is at around 3 or 4, your child is now going to truly blossom in our classes, and it's now that they are going to put all that they've learned into action. You and your child will begin to be able to experience the music in a very different way. They will be able to sing complete songs, and or chants. They may be able to start doing some of our more sophisticated approaches in class, such as sing rounds, or ostinatos that they couldn't do before. They may also be able to do rhythm patterns in class for us, or give us new ideas to try out, and many parents share that their 3 or 4 year old make up their own verses at home.
Is my child too young for music class?
Sing to your child the minute they come into this world:) The most opportune time to introduce music (or any language) is between 0-5, particularly 0-3 years old as your child comes out wired and ready to receive all this information. Music is a learned skill, just like talking and the earlier we start the better. Most think of this as a "gift" or talent that we inherit, this is not the case, although there are some that have been given exceptional talent. Imagine, NOT talking to your baby, they would not learn how to speak. This is the same for singing. Sing to your child on a regular basis, and pretty soon your child will be singing and will be as fluent with that as they are speaking their native tongue:) Besides the fact that I'm sure you noticed from day one how much your child seemed to respond and loved your singing to them.
Studies have been done and we've discovered that a baby can "coo" on the resting tone as early as 2 weeks old. This is fascinating because they can't yet talk, but they can change the tone to match yours or a song they just heard without yet being able to speak by singing the last note of a song. This is why we sing many songs on a syllable, we take the language out, and everyone can sing along.
What if my child is shy and quiet in class, and doesn't participate like some other children?
All children learn in different ways and some chose wisely to sit and observe, and will go home and sing for you, or dance away in the living room. If they are doing lots at home musically, that was the goal. There's so much going on in our classes. Many like to take it all in, and get it all "right" so they can practice it at home.
My child wanders around the room while most of the other kids are sitting on their parents lap. Are they disinterested in class?
There are many children that walk around the room and explore everything in the room, particularly if this is their first semester in class. Don't worry about this:) This does not mean that your child isn't interested in music. Rest assured your child is taking everything in and for them this is their way of learning and/or becoming familiar with their surroundings. You will discover this later in class, or at home when they surprisingly offer up something musical we did in class that week. The important thing is to strongly continue to model the music, and movements when they do wander away from you. They will check back with you periodically, and they will NOTICE that mom, dad or the nanny is really enjoying this and that is contagious.
Children mimic everything we do, so they will eventual mimic what you do in class. Some kids go through phases of wandering, and next semester will be sitting in your lap. It can take several weeks, or even semesters for a child to really settle into class.
My child is now 3 and seems no longer interested in class!
Research has shown that many children between the ages of 2.5 and 3.5 who were once very active in class, can become very quiet. This is not a case of lack of interest, they are all of a sudden "concerned about getting it right" and a social skill is being developed as they are aware that others are watching. At this age they are really "audiating" their singing voices, and wondering if they are getting the notes right etc.... this is really a crucial time in their achieving "Basic Music Competence" - ie. singing in tune, and keeping a beat. They eventually come out of that observing stage and begin to sing and participate again and often enjoy becoming strong leaders in the class.
What are the benefits of a Mixed Age class?
Mixed aged classes benefit all children, because they have the opportunity these days for cross-age interaction. This is an especially rich environment for children to learn. In a mixed aged environment there is a much wider variety of expression than one would receive in a class room with children of similar ages, and children learn at a more rapid pace in this environment. Increasingly, young children are limited to same age playdates and preschools. Yet according to early childhood education researcher Lilian Katz, "it's not natural for young children to spend large proportions of time in the same age group". Katz and others have written persuasively that the mixed-age setting has intellectual and social benefits for both younger and older children. In our classes, younger children learn from watching the older children in the room (as well as the grown ups!), & learn by trying to imitate the older child; and when in the mixed aged environment, they often show more complex behaviors earlier than usual. Older children learn empathy and an awareness of others-- social skills that can last a lifetime. They learn to be role models for the younger children and learn valuable leadership qualities. Children can develop musically at their own pace in a natural, family-style setting, besides the fact when more siblings arrive, the whole family can attend music class together.
At what age should my child begin formal instrument Lessons?
There is no hard and fast rule here. While some children can start as early as 3 or 4, many teachers would not encourage it until a child is closer to 5-6 and sometimes older depending on each child. The bottom line is that all children are different and you are the best judge of your own child's degree of readiness.
There are a few important factors for you to consider. Is your child asking to play something? Is he/she able to sit and focus for about a half an hour? Do you think they would be able to practice on a regular basis?
The answer to all of these questions may help you in deciding at what age your child is ready to start. The important thing is to make it fun for them at a young age and not to push too much. If you would like to talk through any of this, talk to your Music Together Teacher. Regardless of when you decide to begin, the fact that you are bringing your child to an early childhood educational music program on a consistent basis will really help to prepare your child for music lessons giving them a solid musical foundation. We have heard many piano teachers say that they wish all parents would take their children to an early childhood music program such as Music Together to really build the important foundation of music before starting an instrument. Congratulations to you, as you've already given your child this skill through our classes. May you continue to bring the joy of music into your family life. Being able to play an instrument brings amazing joy to the player and those around them. Besides all the other benefits that they will gain from this wonderful experience.