David Daigneault is a professional musician and co-owner of songs for seeds in Charleston, a group music class for babies and toddlers that introduces kids to music starting from a young age. He's a professional musician who learned to play his first song on the piano at age 3. And he's been an advocate for teaching kids about music ever since.
"I'm the youngest of nine kids, and just about all of my siblings played an instrument. I married a professional singer, and we now have four musical children," Daigneault says.
We asked Daigneault about why music is so important for a child's development and how parents can get kids started on it early.
1) How does music impact a baby's development?
There are too many ways to mention! But perhaps most importantly, it builds on the bond between parent and child. It can also help them develop speech, express themselves and put them in a good mood. One of the most motivational ways to teach a baby how to learn is to give them a percussive instrument.
2) What are some simple ways to introduce your child to music and what's a good age?
It's never to early to start listening to - and participate in - making music. Give them a shaker so they can be in on the fun. A xylophone toy will help teach them that one direction of a keyboard has lower sounding notes, and the other direction makes higher notes.
If the child is under age 5, allow them to simply enjoy the wonder of music, as dexterity builds in their fingers. Each child is different, and if you notice they are able to form notes and chords on the family piano or guitar, they might be ready for formal lessons.
3) What's the best kind of music to introduce kids to early on?
Pick the kind of music that you like — this way you can listen together and strengthen your bond. Just about any music is baby-friendly (this changes later). If your child wants to listen to the same song over and over again - let them (for as long as you can take it). This helps them mature in picking apart the different aspects of the song. Some music might cause your baby to dance, stay with it as it allows them to develop a love for music.
4) Is classical music particularly helpful for babies?
Some research does show this might give them an edge if they listen as early as 3 months old, but it's not conclusive. It certainly can't hurt to include some of it in what you listen to. Test it out with your little one. If your baby appears to listen or positively react to any particular style of music, go with it.
5) How loud is too loud when it comes to babies and music?
Baby's cannot protect themselves from loud music, and exposure to it could cause life-long hearing damage. Never go above 75 decibels. For perspective, a conversation is at about 60 decibels.
6) What should parents look for in a music class?
Parents should look for a safe environment where the focus is placed on a mix of learning the basics but also making sure it's fun and interactive. As with any subject, find a class that can properly assess where the child is in their musical understanding. This way, they can apply just the right amount of challenge and reward to motivate your child to learn more. If your child shows excitement before class, that's a good sign. If they feel forced to go to a class, it could turn them off to music in general.
You can also use music as an aid to learn just about anything. For example (shameless plug), songs for seeds teaches letters, numbers, shapes and even other languages using music as a learning tool, while also teaching music itself.
7) How can parents make music with their kids at home?
Parents can sing along with their kids in the car. They can also get toys that focus on making music, but be careful here. A real guitar (even sized for kids) is usually made cheaply and goes out of tune very fast - also, they won't have the dexterity to make it sound the way they want (and they will put it down). A pretend guitar with only buttons doesn't really teach them anything, but it still makes for a fun toy. I recommend any percussive instruments, and toy xylophones. While I do not condone iPad or video games, there are some really good educational musical apps out there. Look for apps that require your child to interact and keep them engaged.