This is an age old question. Every year more and more studies are published to show that childhood development is influenced by a variety of factors. Whilst parents supply the gene pool for children, everyday activities and environment have a major impact on childhood development.
Everyone is born with a complex system of brain circuitry, but how that circuitry is wired is dependent on external forces – i.e: nutrition, stimulation, and surroundings – in other words, their environment.
The development of language is influenced every day in every way by adult-child interactions. From the very earliest moments it is important to talk, sing, and read to babies. This enables children to recognise and learn the sounds of their native language. In addition to learning the sounds of speech, during the first six months a child’s brain begins to learn which mouth movements go with the sounds. Lots of face-to-face conversations with babies helps them to interpret the world around them. Cooing and then babbling are milestones in language acquisition.
Babies like to mimic what they hear. Speaking to babies and imitating their sounds, not only teaches the child sound patterns but encourages taking turns, a process necessary for conversation. Studies have shown that children who were spoken to more often know many more words by age 2 and scored higher on standardised tests by age 3.
Music is the one medium that uses both sides of the brain. The left side of the brain is dominant when it comes to language. It takes in what we hear, processes it and is also pretty much responsible for speaking. It is the logical side of the brain. The right side of the brain looks after our spatial awareness, movement and face recognition. It helps us make sense of what we see and as far as language is concerned, helps us interpret the meaning and tone of conversation. Research says children who have music in their lives have a 15 percent larger corpus callosum, which is a network of nerves connecting the two hemispheres of the brain.
Social interaction during your child’s time at early learning centres can be empowering. It can build confidence and provide a wide array of new and interesting experiences. It usually involves children from all walks of life alongside with professional and caring educators – this is also an opportunity to immerse your child in a variety of extracurricular activities.
Remember, the first 4 years of life is the most critical period of the brain’s development, more so than at any other time. This is the time to immerse your child in as many experiences as possible.
Early experiences contribute significantly to the structure of the brain and its capacities – the effects are lifelong. The quality, quantity and consistency of stimulation, such as music, determines how the brain is formed and can even enhance I.Q.
So the advice is sing, sing and sing some more. Sing with or without music and don’t worry how it sounds.
Jenny Wilkinson, Director, hey dee ho music.