A music class teaches so much more than just music!

Parents naturally think a group music class will teach one skill: music. After twelve years as a Suzuki music teacher, I can confidently say that not only does music teach a wide range of life skills, I haven’t stopped learning either!

Here are five things your baby, toddler or preschooler will learn from a music class (apart from music, of course!).

1. Discovering Your Child’s Learning Style

Knowing how your child learns gives them an amazing head start! Even before your child starts school, you are working successfully as a team to achieve new skills. This is helpful because there are limited opportunities in the school classroom to observe your child being presented with new skills, and see each step along the path to mastery. In music classes, you are there at each step, and are sharing in this magical journey of learning.

Leading Note teachers are trained to observe the student in order to support and assist the parent in their learning teamwork with their child. We see your relationship with your child as being of the utmost importance. A beautiful example of this was a conversation I had with the parent of a three-year-old. The parent was concerned that her daughter didn’t want to go to the teacher for a turn on the xylophone, and therefore wasn’t learning. The parent was delighted to discover that I had observed the child mimic the motion of playing the xylophone with her hands in mid-air, and say the rhyme for each child in the class. In this way, her child had practiced that activity ten times, not once. The next week the child happily walked across the circle for a turn! She felt confident enough to try, rather than feeling pushed into something too soon. The parent saw her child as a success, and understood what her child needed to feel confident to try.

This is explored more in an article which was published in MamaMag’s Third Birthday Special Edition (and also published on this blog). The article can be found here.

2. Literacy and Numeracy Skills

So many of our songs include counting opportunities, such a ‘Six Little Ducks’. We introduce these skills in many different ways, which helps your little one to develop and practice their counting skills in a meaningful way. ‘One to one correspondence’ is the ability to count one item at a time within a group. For example, the teacher might bring out a set of matching ducks, and the child practices counting each duck one at a time. Activities like counting the ducks move counting practice from reciting sounds, to each number holding meaning.

Nursery rhymes help babies and toddlers to have a meaningful understanding of concepts like ‘over’ and ‘under’ as well as learning place names. We practice verbs when going ‘Round the Mulberry Bush’, by changing the action each verse. The children are hearing language in a flowing way, and are being exposed to words they may not hear in day to day conversation (how often do you use the word ‘fleece’?). The rhymes are short, which makes it easy for children to repeat and master. This memorisation process assists with pattern recognition, which is the basis for any reading and maths work they will do in the future. Every lesson finishes with story time, where the teacher reads or sings from a beautiful picture book.

3. Waiting and Turn-Taking

Right from the first activity in each class, the baby or toddler is learning that if I wait, a turn will come to me. That can be such a difficult life lesson to learn, especially when they really REALLY want to play the drum right now! Learning to regulate one’s emotions, and to be ok with delayed gratification, is something that we want our children to learn. We can project this skill into any area of life, and any developmental stage. From a child waiting to go down the slide rather than pushing other children aside to go first, to an adult waiting one more pay cycle to buy something rather than instantly putting it on a credit card.

You may have heard of a famous study involving children and biscuits done in 1970 by Walter Mischel, a psychologist. This study looked at impulse control and delayed gratification in children. Essentially, he placed a biscuit in front of a child, and left the room. If they didn’t eat the biscuit until he returned, then they were rewarded with a second biscuit. If they ate it while he was gone, then they didn’t get a second one. What is quite fascinating is that those children were followed through to adulthood. It was found that those who waited until he returned and received two biscuits did better in school and had fewer behavioural problems. This group also completed university degrees at higher rates. The children with lower impulse control had less positive outcomes.

Impulse control and delayed gratification are very difficult concepts for small people, and of course we approach this in gentle, developmentally appropriate ways. Activities such as sitting in a circle, and each child coming to the teacher to have a turn is a great example of impulse control and delayed gratification. The child sitting on their parent’s lap, joining in the singing and actions, waiting for their turn is learning so much! They are consolidating their skills through extra repetitions of the rhyme. By watching the other children have a turn with the teacher they are building up a bank of experiences that they couldn’t have yet done in their short lives. But of course, they are also learning that if they can stick with something long enough they can achieve their goal.

4. Social Skills and Good Manners

Each Pioneers class starts with singing the ‘Good Morning’ song, and shaking hands with every person in the room – teacher, parent or child. All members of the class are equally important and should be welcomed just as warmly. When the students progress to the Explorers classes, the students take turns to sing good morning to the teacher. This fundamental social skill is such an important part of relating to each other, it can be easy to forget how big a step it can be for shy children. Practicing these skills each week helps it to become automatic.

Your child’s first job interview might feel like a long way off, but believe it or not we are already thinking about the kinds of skills your child needs to succeed in whatever path they choose! We want your child to have such beautiful, automatic good manners that they will hold a door open for an interviewer, or remember to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when they meet their in-laws for the first time – no matter how nervous they might be!

You might notice in classes that the teachers always speak to the students with good manners, as we know that whatever behaviour is modelled the students will soak up!

5. Fine and Gross Motor Control

We all hear about the importance of fine and gross motor skills, but what are they and why are they important? Motor skills are important as they allow your baby, toddler or preschooler to be able to do things for themselves. Anything from holding their own bottle, to buttoning up a coat – and of course, playing a musical instrument!

Gross motor skills are when we use our arms, legs or whole body to create an action, for example: marching along to the ‘Grand Duke of York’, or running at the park. Fine motor skills are small actions, for example: picking up a feather with finger and thumb (as we do in the ‘I Have a Little Feather’ song), or drawing with a pencil.

Our classes approach motor skill development in a multitude of ways, including having a wider age range (Pioneers classes are for babies and toddlers aged 0 – 3, and Explorers classes are for toddlers and preschoolers aged 3 – 5). Older students have the opportunity to develop their motor skills at a deeper level, and consolidate their learning. Also, think about the confidence that knowing you do something well gives you. When you come to new tasks that require a similar skillset, you’ll be confident in the knowledge that you will master the new skill quickly too. The early honing of motor skills will make other new tasks seem less impossible for your child; from learning to tie their shoelaces, or typing on a keyboard. Their confidence also grows by having the opportunity to demonstrate to the younger students.

The younger students have the motivating experience of seeing an older child demonstrate a skill, which spurs them on keep trying and take steps towards mastery themselves. Children learn so much from each other!

It’s also worth noting that children never reach the same developmental stages at exactly the same age or in exactly the same order, so having a wider age range allows children to explore and develop at their own pace.

All these life skills will carry them on a positive pathway through life, and set your child up for success in any setting.