Children and parents take part in activities during the Los Angeles ECDC Week of the Young Child held in April 2012. Shams Soomar
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain artists once we grow up."
– Pablo Picasso
It's lunchtime at the Rahimi household and 18-month-old Leila has settled into her highchair. She awaits her meal eagerly. Leila's mother gives her a piece of paper and a crayon so she can draw while she waits. In the background, music is playing and Leila hears her favorite song. Her eyes light up and she begins to clap and sing. Her mother begins to sing along and repeats the words as she finishes preparing lunch. This is an example of turning an everyday moment into a learning moment using art and music.
Reina, aged three-and-a-half, enjoys finger painting a mural at the Dallas ECDC Week of the Young Child in April 2012. Courtesy of The Ismaili USA
Children have a natural love for art and music. They love a good tune with an energetic beat. Music can affect a child's mood instantly and help create new connections and memories. Art surrounds us everywhere. Just pick up a book. Look on the wall. Or identify patterns as you walk down the street. Children respond to bright colors and bold images before they learn their first words. Our experiences with art and music start in early childhood and last a lifetime.
Music learning, like language learning must begin early in a child's life. Researchers agree that babies are aware of and respond to music and different sounds inside the mother's womb. Hundreds of thousands of nerve cells sprout consistently in an unborn baby's brain. The early years (from birth to six) are the period of most rapid growth in brain development. Exposure to music helps develop listening and auditory discrimination skills; it contributes to motor skill development and increases the range and flexibility of the voice.
During the earliest years making art is a sensory exploration activity. Research shows that introducing art to children at a young age has a number of benefits, ranging from improving creativity to increasing self-confidence. Art can help develop a child's imagination, cognitive skills, problem-solving abilities, fine motor skills and overall social development. Children feel a sense of emotional satisfaction when they are involved in creating art, whether they are modeling with clay, drawing with crayons, or making a collage from recycled scraps.
Four-and-a-half-year-old Inaaya takes part in an Art to Music activity in Dallas. Courtesy of The Ismaili USA
The key is to provide children with a rich and varied environment that promotes their overall growth and development from an early age. Exposure to art and music plays an important role in creating an enriching and stimulating environment for your child.
Here are eight things you can do to bring the joy of art and music to your child's life every day:
- Sing with your child. You may not be the next American Idol, but chances are your child will think of you as their idol even if you can't carry a tune – young children won't notice and you'll probably have a lot of fun together.
- Try one new craft a week. Whether it's finger painting with shaving cream, fruit stamping or paper towel butterflies – keep things fresh and fun with simple and low cost art projects.
- Make music with things around the house. Get creative and look for everyday things that you can transform into musical instruments. Make maracas out of plastic bottles: simply fill them with some dry beans and seal for a couple of instant shakers.
- Visit a museum. Pick a kid-friendly art exhibit or choose an artist to learn about then plan a trip to a museum. Prepare your child for the trip by reading a book about an artist. Go for short visits – you can always come back!
- Introduce your child to different types of music. Add variety to your child's life by playing a different type of music each day- classical, country, jazz or music from your country or origin. Use music during transitions during your day and to help your child anticipate what's happening next.
- Display your child's art. Create a special space in your home to display your child's creations. They will feel valued and celebrated when they see their own work on the wall!
- Let your child see you play an instrument. If you play the piano or any other instrument, involve your child: have her sit on your lap while you play a few notes and talk about the parts of the instrument, or explore the keyboard together.
- Try an art or music class. There are many enrichment classes available and some of them are surprisingly affordable. Pick one that offers a good variety of age-appropriate activities at time of day that works best for you and your child.
Little Raahil plays with a tambourine as part of a Marching Band activity held in Los Angeles. Shams Soomar
But most of all, have fun together and enjoy the process of exploring art and music with your child. Learning to appreciate art and music starts early in a life and positive associations with both contribute to healthy development and can create memories that you and your child will enjoy and cherish for many years to come.
Sulfyna Murji is an Early Childhood Educator, entrepreneur and mom. For the past 15 years she has worked in North America, Central Asia and the Middle East. She has taught, trained teachers, been in administrative roles, and managed an international preschool.
This is an adaptation of an article originally published in the July 2012 edition of The Ismaili USA magazine.