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Music in early childhood development has long been theorized to have a strong correlation with numerous cognitive functions. It has been proven through many studies of the past century to have a great impact on spatial reasoning, creative ability, and other aspects of cognition. For this reason, music in early childhood development has seen an increase of inclusion in scholastic programs.
The early childhood years, namely birth to the age of six, represent an extremely impressionable time in the ears and minds of young people. The young mind is like a malleable sponge, absorbing any type of information thrown its way and able to be molded in a number of ways. This is not the same as the way that adults process music. Many other disciplines, aside from music, such as language, are much more difficult to learn after the window of childhood closes.
Researchers call the period until age six the music babble stage, deeming it a critical opportunity for music in early childhood development. This is similar to the language babble period and is a chance for the young to unscramble aural images of music and put them into cultural context. The youngest infant who may seem incapable of seemingly simple tasks is even able to identify changes in frequency, melody, and stimuli, suggesting an acuity for music from birth.
In terms of music in early childhood development having an effect on other areas of the brain, there is some research suggesting a truth to this. Many creative regions of the brain overlap, so stimulation by musical development is thought, in turn, to promote healthy development of related cognitive tasks. Intuitively, it also promotes musical ability later in life. This may also work negatively, as negative musical influences can not only prevent development but can also impair baseline ability.
Other research suggests that there is also an academic link between positive exposures to music in early childhood development and success in school. One such study, which examined the self-claimed Mozart Effect, suggested evidence that physical and mental health are positively impacted through music. This impact is illustrated both in children and adults, explaining the creation of many therapeutic programs that associate music into a strategy for individual well-being.
Due to the somewhat intangible nature of studying music in infants and young children, there are always doubters and those who question researchers of the validity of linking music in early childhood development and success in other endeavors. That being said, the overwhelming majority is in support of such early education, genuinely believing in the benefit and trusting the integrity of studies that prove these points. There is little harm that music can do in these early phases of life, giving another substantial reason for the integration of music education into the early years of a person's life.
It is never, ever too early to start introducing children to music. I don't remember when I didn't hear music growing up. My mom had an extensive record collection and played it for us, so I grew up on 50s standards and big band music. I could sing "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" when I was five.
I think music does for small children what nothing else can do. It engages every part of their brains. I mean, think of how many kids learned The Preamble from singing it with the "Schoolhouse Rock" cartoons on Saturday morning! I was singing it was I was four or five, for sure. I also learned grammar, math and history because of that series.
Music should be an integral part of every child's environment.