People say that babies don’t come with manuals. But in today’s information-driven world there is plenty of advice to be found at every corner—and for every aspect of child rearing. At the top of the advice list are those activities deemed to be educational. After all, who doesn’t want their child’s intellectual abilities to shine?

If you are like most moms and dads of infants, toddlers or preschoolers, you will have already heard such golden nuggets as “read to your child every day.” You may have even introduced them to sign language as a way to help accelerate their verbal language and communication skills. However, one area of early education that may seem somewhat murky to parents is music.

Perpetuating this lack of clarity are several myths, such as classical music is “better for you” than other kinds of music, or simply listening to music brings about the same developmental benefits as does music-making. While it is true that research—like that of The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)—has found that exposure to music during the early years of childhood enhances the learning process; parents are often unaware of how they should “deliver” music to their child. For music to truly promote language development, creativity and social interaction, parents need to do more than simply play Beethoven before bed each night.

Incorporate fun songs into their day. Dance and sing with your baby or toddler and place emphasis on movement and parent-child interaction. Encourage your caregiver or other family members to do the same when you leave your child and choose recordings that are pitched to align with a young child’s vocal range.

Enroll in a class where mom, dad, grandma, or grandpa can play percussion instruments alongside the children. This model of child and caregiver interaction is essential to music learning. Music Together’s philosophy is that “music is every child’s birthright and that all children are born inherently musical.” This is why as parents you should strive to provide a musically rich environment that is playful and developmentally appropriate, as well as participatory and non-performance orientated.

At the end of the day it is all about the joy of music—music for music’s sake, instead of intellectual aspirations. Musical milestones will occur naturally in this environment.

By Rowena Morgan, Director at Music Together Tri Valley.  Music Together® is an internationally recognized early childhood music program first offered to the public in 1987. Music Together pioneered the concept of a research-based, developmentally appropriate music curriculum for newborns to kindergarteners. For more information, visit www.musictogether.net or call 925-551-7722.