Week 15

Parental Involvement in Education is Crucial 

Why active parental involvement in music during infancy?

Is active participation in music really necessary during infancy? Why not put on The Wiggles? Educational infant videos are a growing market, which can reduce the pressures for busy parents. However, this can also reduce the number of those beneficial and special interactions between infant and parent. Infants observe and learn from their environment, including through social interaction, and a stimulating and nurturing environment helps mould an infants' mind. Through the Suzuki Method, both teachers and parents know an active parent-child relationship is crucial to the development of a child.

In 2012 David Gerry, Andrea Unrau and Laurel J. Trainor studied the effects of an active music classes on infants musical, communicative and social development. The study compared active music classes and passive music classes. The active music class followed the Suzuki Early Childhood Education (Suzuki ECE) curriculum with a weekly one hour group class plus home listening and engagement. In the Suzuki ECE classes the parent and child were encouraged to actively participate through singing, playing and movement. The passive music class consisted of synthesized classical music played in the background while parent and child were free to choose an activity from the five stations; art, books, balls, building blocks and stacking cups. The Suzuki ECE curriculum emphasised singing, movement, infant and parent bonding, repetition of set repertoire and active parental involvement in music making and infant development. The passive music class did not have a curriculum and focused more on free play.

The results of the study reiterated Dr Suzuki's belief that active parental involvement is critical. The infants who participated in the Suzuki ECE classes were found to respond better to communicative gestures, were easier to soothe and were found to be less distressed than the passive music class participants.

The following are some extracts from the discussion in their article:

"The results indicate that when appropriate pedagogical techniques are used, active music classes for infants and parents can accelerate infants' acquisition of culture-specific musical knowledge and can positively influence communication and social interaction between parents and infants. The present findings suggest that the infant brain might be particularly plastic with respect to musical expression.

Music educators debate the age at which it is appropriate to begin musical training and whether there is an optimal order as to when different musical skills should be introduced. The present results suggest that when parents are actively involved and materials appropriate for infants are utilised, musical training can profitably begin early in infancy.

Toy and educational companies have created musical recordings that require virtually no parent-infant interaction and rely for the most part on inexpressive, synthesized musical sounds, sometimes marketed as being beneficial for infant development. However, one study on the effects of the popular Baby Einstein(tm) videos found that infants did not learn words highlighted in the videos in the absence of parental interaction(From: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Journal 164: Word learning from baby videos by Richert, Robb, Fender and Wartella.). Music media aimed at busy parents with young children have sometimes become a substitute for infant-parent interaction involving the singing of lullabies and playsongs. Our results suggest that active participation are crucial to fully realising musical, communicative and social benefits of musical experience in early development."

"Children learn to smile from their parents." Dr Suzuki

For full article see: Developmental Science Journal 15:3: Active music classes in infancy enhance musical, communicative and social development by David Gerry, Andrea Unrau and Laurel J. Trainor.

Ahna Jensen
Registered Suzuki Violin Teacher
Accredited Suzuki ECE Teacher
BMus | BA (Hons) | PhD Candidate

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