Music is an everyday part of many of our lives but what is it about music that is so important? Why is it that we see even very young babies responding to music?  And what does it mean to our children’s development and our own?  Music works measure by measure – let’s talk more about a few things we know now about how it works. Or better yet, visit Music Works Northwest at KidsQuest “An Art-tastic Evening” on March 15th and see for yourself!

What makes me an expert on the subject?  I would describe myself not so much of an expert but more as a music nerd – I love all facets of the intriguing study and practice of music.  If we were all together in a group, I’d introduce myself musically in the form of a Hello Song and I’d also have an opportunity to learn about you.  My parents love to tell me stories of my first solo, standing up in our car (yes, before car seats!) at 18 months singing “This Old Man.” My family fostered that love of music and I grew up to become a music therapist and eventually found my way to Music Works Northwest in Bellevue as the Music Therapy and Early Childhood Program Manager.  Since that car ride, advances in neuroimaging have led to scientists learning more and more about our physiological and neurological responses to music.  These discoveries about the wonderful world of music give us a glimpse of the importance of music in our lives.  Today’s discussion focuses on a couple of those discoveries, not only giving us knowledge of the importance of music in our children’s lives but perhaps providing us with some really great music facts to share next time at a Trivia Night or on our own quests to become contestants on Jeopardy.

Interesting Thought #1:  Infants perceive syncopation as early as 2 days after birth.  Honing, in a 2010 study, played a steady beat rhythm for infants in which one beat was left out intermittently and the babies, who had little caps on their heads that measure brain waves, exhibited a blip that showed what has been interpreted as surprise and awareness of something new in other studies. Syncopation is a musical tool used in many types of music, especially jazz.  In other words, our babies are born with a capacity to process, be aware of, and respond to music that can be comple

Interesting Thought #2:  As infants start to show a preference for their mother tongue they also start to show preferences in cultural styles of music.  This means that from early on music is a natural part of our children’s lives and can be fostered by playful families who use music in a developmentally appropriate way to enjoy everyday activities, help babies go to sleep (lullabies), and provide cues for teaching skills (think “Clean Up” song.)  Like a “Spoonful of Sugar”, music can take us a long way in making life fun.

So where to start?  Don’t worry about making music an academic process at a young age but instead enjoy music as a family, seek out opportunities to make music with groups, go to experiential places such as KidsQuest Museum in Bellevue to explore the fun scientific properties of sound waves and other music aspects, make homemade instruments out of 2 liter bottles, pots and pans, and food storage boxes.  As a shared activity you will foster the love of music in children and they may grow up to become music nerds themselves!

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Contributor: Patti Catalano, MM, MT-BC;  Music Works Northwest