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BABY STEPS: Music, dance help tiny brains and bodies

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… It’s that same belief in early immersion that has Vashti Fairbairn offering music classes for infants and toddlers at her school, the Music Box studio at River Market.Fairbairn is herself a mom, to the almost-two-year-old Clara, and her little girl has been exposed to music since even before her birth.

“I was pregnant with her, performing and teaching,” Fairbairn says.

Ever since, Clara has been exposed to music, both at home and at her mom’s studio, where she’s an enthusiastic participant in Mini Music – a drop-in for kids aged nine months up to three years.

In Clara, Fairbairn can see all the benefits of early music education coming to life before her eyes.

“Language development for Clara was huge,” she says. Her daughter’s speech has grown in leaps and bounds, and she’s enthusiastically using her large vocabulary – even in sentences.

Fairbairn points out that singing is good for language development because, in song, we tend to prolong vowels and make our consonants more clear – which makes it easier for tots to learn the subtleties of language. The rhythms of song also echo the rhythms of speech, and the patterns of conversation – call and response, question and answer – are all common themes in music.

At an even deeper level, music gives tots early exposure to the idea of active listening, not passive listening – as a consequence of which, they’re able at an early age to identify emotion in another person’s voice.

“It gives them empathy earlier,” Fairbairn says.

Kids exposed to music early also have exposure to other skills – fine motor skills with finger play, hand and body coordination, balance, learning to feel a beat with their body and to beat it out with drumsticks and hands.

Fairbairn notes that kids exposed to music early are surprisingly quick to be able to keep a steady beat, to grasp high and low pitches, to distinguish between loud and soft.

And, through it all, they’re learning to express themselves in their own way – which builds their self-confidence long before they understand what the word means.

“She’s not afraid to sing or dance randomly,” Fairbairn says, laughing as Clara does just that around the studio floor. “She’s making up her own songs. It’s huge creativity. She’s creating her own lyrics and melody.”

The class setting, too, gives the tiny participants exposure to other kids, which is important for their social development.

And, most of all, it gives them a chance to bond with mom, dad or caregiver – and to take home the songs and activities they’ve learned and do them together through the week.

With all of it, the little mini-musicians are building the foundation for all sorts of skills that will stand them well later in life. Fairbairn notes that kids exposed to music early in life have been shown to have better mathematical and spatial awareness skills, and their reading often takes off faster as well.

The Mini Music participants can go on to toddler study at Music Box – there’s a Music Kids Club and Drama Kids Club for the three-to-five-year-old crowd – and many will move from there to formal music training, especially piano lessons.

But Fairbairn points out that wherever they all go, the lessons they’ve absorbed through music and movement will remain with them.”There’s no preconception that there’s another Mozart out there,” she says with a smile, “but it’s just going to set them up so well for other things they decide to do.”© Copyright 2013- See more