Sunday, December 11, 2011

"Let's make music, Ga-ga."

The electronic drum kit was clearly superior to the metal cookie tin for music making.

Fiona is now a full 27-months-old. She has discovered drumming. Yesterday she flipped one of her grandmother's cookie tins over and happily pounded the shiny metal. "Let's make music, Ga-ga," she cried. (I'm Ga-ga.)

I recalled I had a small, electronic drum kit in the basement. I set off to find it, telling her I'd be right back. "O.K.," she said with a slight note of disappointment in that tiny little-girl-voice of hers.

Disappointment turned to excited interest when I returned with the kit. I plugged it in at the phone table and Fiona dragged a chair over. She climbed up onto the chair and was ready to "make music." She seemed to instinctively understand that the round tips on the drumsticks were for striking the drums.

Was she good? Let's say Fiona makes music like she draws. She shows the same enthusiasm for drumming that she shows for scribbling with one, big exception. She doesn't seem to realize that her scribbles are just that: scribbles. But with the drums, she immediately noted that her drumming was "noise." Nice call.

All this made me curious; How do toddlers approach music?

According to KidsHealth:

"Music contributes to what experts call "a rich sensory environment." This simply means exposing kids to a wide variety of tastes, smells, textures, colors, and sounds — experiences that can forge more pathways between the cells in their brains.

"These neural connections will help kids in almost every area of school, including reading and math. Just listening to music can make these connections, but the biggest impact on comes if kids actively participate in musical activities.

"Between the ages of 1 and 3, kids respond best to music when they actively experience it. Passive listening (like in the car) is fine, but look for opportunities to get your child rocking, marching, rolling, tapping, clapping, and moving to the beat."

The article notes toddlers won't pick up individual notes but they will experiment with different pitches. I've noted that! Fiona loves to sing songs that she makes up with her voice sliding from high to low and back. At this point, Fiona does not have a clear understanding of rhythm. Thankfully, she does have a clear understanding of noise and tries to keep it down.

Giving an older toddler something to bang — a drum or a xylophone — is a good idea. This encourages the young child to discover and experiment with rhythm. By two or three, simple wind instruments — a recorder, pipe whistle, or kazoo — may be appropriate. The only caveat is ensure the instruments are appropriately sized and shaped for little hands and, most importantly, safe for toddlers. No little parts that can be inhaled and choke a kid.

Fiona's mom is quite musically talented. She won an award at a piano competition as a child. Maybe it's time to start thinking of music classes for Fiona, something simple, short and fun. When I worked at the local paper, The London Free Press, I covered a number of recitals by young musicians being instructed using the Suzuki method.

The Suzuki method has a rich and long history in London, Ontario. According to The Canadian Encyclopedia , in 1969, Herman Dilmore began a Suzuki program at the University of Western Ontario.

"The Suzuki method is a teaching system developed by the Japanese violinist and educator Shinichi Suzuki . . . The essentials of the Suzuki method are an early beginning, parental participation, and rote learning. The children look, listen, and imitate. There are regular private lessons and periodic group lessons. Children as young as two-and-a-half or three years old are accepted without any preselection, and introduced to music one step at a time. It is a highly individualistic method in that no child proceeds to the next step until the previous one has been fully mastered, no matter how long it takes."

Come Monday, I'm contacting the London Suzuki Music Centre. No more noise!

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