Sunday, February 24, 2013

Child development and music

Some interesting ideas on child development and music, written by Robert Sylwester should be of interest to parents and grandparents of toddlers.

Stamm and her collaborators in the book, Bright From the Start demystify the scientific base of early brain development and the effect of currently available computerized gadgets and programs. They place personal parental contact into the center of the early developmental period. Their major point is that direct constant parental care is the most important need of a birth to age three child.

The book is organized around Stamm's ABC's of parenting: Attention, Bonding, and Communication. The chapters provide relevant non-technical information on the underlying science of each of the three concepts and its related elements, and a wealth of practical advice on how to enhance the development of the relevant biological systems. This includes information on useful resources, and helpful critiques of various (often-computerized) commercial parenting aids.

Attention is a requisite for any receptive or responsive behavior, and so much of our attention system is innate. Parents and other caregivers thus need to understand how attention functions, how to enhance it. Enhancing attention is defined by the authors,  in terms of time span, distractions, and vacillations between active and passive attention. Many parents are currently concerned about the effects of electronic media on a child's attention capabilities.

Bonding is the strong emotional attachment that humans develop for selected others. Our species' survival requires innate and immediate bonding between infants and their parents, but the book also suggests deliberate tactile and other interactive activities that enhance the process. Many parents who work outside the home are concerned about the bonding issues implicit in the selection of an appropriate day care program.

Communication is the natural adjunct of bonding. The emergence of speech through the music of parents has been a delightful experience for parents throughout human history, and the joyful fascination we all have in observing language emerge in a child enhances the process. The discovery of mirror neurons provides us with an enhanced understanding and appreciation of the importance of modeling behavior in the early life of a child.

Communication and collaboration are essential in a social species. Humans use two basic forms of communication, (1) a personal intimate form called grooming or caressing that uses touch and body language to establish and maintain bonding and hierarchical relationships within the group, and (2) a more complex auditory signaling system that alerts others in the group to the nature, location, and importance of potential dangers and opportunities.

Human language appears to be the most extensive and complex of all these communication systems. Mastering one's native oral and written language is an extended major childhood task, and current school standards and assessment programs focus principally on the development of such skills. Unfortunately, we've narrowed our definition of language.

For example, most K-12 schools currently focus on mastering the sequence of letters that constitute a word but not also on the sequence of tones that constitute a melody, on the grammatical structure of language but not also on the structure of musical forms, on the ability to use writing and typing tools but not also on the ability to play a musical instrument.

It's not that music isn't ubiquitous in our culture—but it's become a one-sided message that emanates from stages, loudspeakers, and personal portable pods. We tend to listen to the music of others rather than create our own.

Music is important to children in all cultures and we need to embrace and celebrate the music in our lives and teach them music and a young age.

No comments:

Post a Comment