According to research, young children gain a lot of advantages when they learn music. Based on these, the optimal period to learn music, particularly musical instrument and singing, is before seven years old. This optimal period refers to faster and easier development in music learning.
Children have their natural musical instincts, they love to sing, dance and perform freely. A significant amount of recent research demonstrates that music experiences influence the structure of the brain. Physically, neural mechanisms supporting music become engaged throughout the brain in coordinated activities.
In most of the western countries, music lessons in play schools have a formal textbook for singing, dancing and simple instrumental learning. This allows children to gain an overview of music history as well as a theoretical understanding of specific musical elements.
Twice a week music lessons provide an opportunity for children to touch and think about music, as described in the goals of the curriculum under this education system.
Accordingly, the system study also points out that babies have innate musical behaviours and they use music as a meaningful communication in their early years.
Firstly, this natural musical behaviour may be affected by antenatal training, and also this specific natural ability can promote music learning for children. Technically, children can imitate sounds and movements easily, while adults may find it a little tricky. On the contrary, adults have a deeper understanding of music meaning and emotional performance than children.
Therefore, from my point of view, the earlier music learning starts, the better; however, a lifelong span is needed to achieve success as a professional musician.
Also, Music is an active mediator leading brain activity which assists different parts of the brain to develop at the same time, such as motor and auditory areas.
This kind of activity balances the workings of the left and right brain and approaches a cooperative mode for mental development. When we think about this fascinating experience in the brain, it is easy to link brain development with the cognitive process.
Recent research also shows that music has positive impacts on children’s cognitive development and academic achievements. Notably, music learning has been confirmed as helping children to concentrate for longer times because it enhances their memories of learning and improves self-expression skills. Learning is a complicated process, and learning music prompts young children’s cognitive understanding and stimulates their creative thinking skills, which builds another relationship with intelligence in early childhood.
Regarding the early give-up, I would say that it is prevalent. This is because not everyone has the potential ability to be a professional musician. At the same time, if children do not have enough guidance from teachers, this would be the second reason to reject music learning. Therefore, play school teachers need to observe their students and try to identify children’s musical ability. Then, they should explore differentiated ways to encourage children’s long-term music learning. For play school teachers and music educators, they must be passionate to deliver quality teaching in class. Teachers’ personalities and music performances usually motivate children.
Thus, whether their skills are professional or general in music preschool teachers need a high standard of music performance to attract children’s interests.
As children have a natural musical culture in early childhood, early childhood teachers should provide a free zone to encourage them to be creative in the music world. In this way, children can be motivated and may be willing to have a deeper understanding of music in the future.
However, when it becomes a deeper learning stage, this kind of ‘fun’ environment would not work well in a real classroom. Music at that stage is not filled with the sense of ‘play the game’ but defined as real knowledge through a professional learning process.
Teachers have to change their teaching pedagogy from ‘improvisation and encouragement’ to ‘guidance and imitation’. This is because professional music education is more serious and needs much practice. Understanding different purposes and being able to implement teaching pedagogies in different steps of music education is essential and will depend on children’s willingness and potential ability in music.
This time would be the best time to utilise background music while talking. As the story progresses, the music can be a kind of drama tool for teachers’ to perform realistic-like situations in the story. Besides, teachers can use music as a signal to imply, and children must react to certain activities. I know some teachers would not agree with this teaching pedagogy as they may think it would interrupt students’ learning.
Besides, being a professional music teacher from my perspective and personal experience, I would suggest trying to make the music learning process. Once children have defined music learning is for ‘fun’, they would never put themselves in a serious position to explore whether or not they have the potential ability to learn deeply.
Therefore, early childhood teachers need to use their pedagogical strategies to tell children that the ‘play and fun’ domain of music learning is temporary. From a long-term perspective, children need to have technical music training and understanding of theoretical knowledge. I know it would be hard to do, but it is necessary to mention this as early as possible.
Using music as a background to teach is an essential approach that I would highly recommend for early childhood teachers. I do not mean using background music for every moment but applying this in class strategically.
For instance, early childhood teachers always have story time to read stories to the children. So, it depends on teachers’ teaching strategies and skills in choosing the appropriate music.
Furthermore, if playschool teachers do not have enough music knowledge and are afraid to teach music in a play school, a background musical strategy can help them calm down and be confident to deliver music in class.
Early childhood teachers and music educators should have a good understanding of children’s development and their needs. Young children need to gain a basic knowledge of all types of music and how to appreciate music and arts.
Play-school teachers should be qualified in general music knowledge, music appreciation and music psychology. They need to be all-rounders. Also, teaching cannot be separated from parenting, particularly in early childhood. The best way I recently found to build a relationship between parents and children was parents engaging in the learning process. That is, teachers and parents need to work collaboratively to achieve sustainable learning because all children deserve to have the opportunity to experience music.