One of the 2019 recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, which recognize major contributions by Americans to the performing arts, is a singer who has won 10 Grammy awards thanks to more than 20 hits on the Billboard charts.
Linda Ronstadt remembers being just four years old when she decided that singing would be her life, and she knew it because spending hours listening to the radio was one of two passions she felt at that age; her other passion was to get as close as possible to her father and grandfather, two busy musicians, whenever they performed.
For most of us, the first musical experience of our lives is listening, and the second is singing. We do not remember these moments, but we see them unfolding as our own kids grow up.
A few children, particularly musical prodigies who go on to become accomplished performers, may start out humming or else using parts of their anatomy to keep the beat when they are still babies, but they will get into singing at some point.
Why Singing Comes Natural to Children
In early childhood, we find absolutely no shame in singing with full passion because we are not yet familiar with the concept of being self-conscious about how we sound compared to others.
From about preschool to the third grade, teachers usually have no problems getting all students to sing; after all, these are the ages when children explore their voices and find it easier to connect to songs they like.
The key here is that children think of songs as something intangible that they can nonetheless own; this is why they usually inject plenty of emotion when they get to sing tunes that they like.
For children, singing is all about exploration and interaction. You can go to just about any early education classroom around the world and learn that singing is part of curricula and lesson plans.
Not every young student will go on to become a singer or a musician; however, all children will enjoy singing activities because of their high level of engagement. There are three kinds of interaction at play when children sing in the classroom:
* Interaction with self.
* Interaction with others.
* Interaction with the musical arts.
It is easy to understand the value of singing in early childhood from a musical education point of view, but the first two elements of interaction are even more important because they deal with healthy development.
Singing as Part of a Musical Life
When children sing, they are discovering the most primordial of musical instruments: their own voices. They quickly realize that this instrument belongs only to them, and they also become subtly aware that they share a part of themselves when they use it.
Age-appropriate singing will happen to most children as early as preschool, but parents do not have to wait for this moment. If your child is showing signs of affinity to music, it may be a good idea to start them off with a program such as Prodigies, which is adequate for children in the ages of 1 through 12.
Prodigies is a smart way to develop a musical life through:
* Video lessons
* Easy-to-play instruments
* Fun activities
Very young children who follow the Prodigies method will be encouraged to sing in just about every lesson. They will listen to melodies as well as songs to illustrate the basics of vocal performance; the goal is to let them know about their voices being their very own musical instruments.
Vocal Development in Children
When you ask musicians, composers, and producers to sing, chances are that they will sound pretty good even if they are not singers; this can be explained by their musical training and their predisposition to do justice to music by means of putting the required effort, but perhaps they lack the proper vocal development often required to be great singers.
Developing a singing voice is a matter of training the vocal anatomy the right way, and this is a process that should begin during early childhood. There is always a chance for children to become great singers despite not having the best-sounding voices; Bob Dylan is an oft-cited example in this regard, but singers will tell you that his vocal development is on point.
On the other hand, you have virtuosos such as Prenicia Clifton, who has been singing opera since the age of four, but her vocal development is phenomenal.
The Right Repertoire for Children to Sing
In language acquisition, understanding is the key to learning. In musical education, listening is the key to performing. The song and melody repertoire of the Prodigies program has been chosen for the purpose of perking up the ears of children so that they build awareness.
Once this has been accomplished and children perk up their ears, the lessons introduce elements such as theme, intervals, meter, and diction so that children can incorporate them into their singing practice.
Parents Singing With Children
We sing lullabies to our children almost instinctively; what we do not realize is that we do so because they want us to sing. The sound of our voices is magical to our infants, and our musical sounds even more so.
Something else we do not realize is how highly therapeutic these simple interactions are. Our children do not care if we sound terrible; at the infant age, they cannot discern if we sound like Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies or like Cardi B with a bad cold.
There will come a point, however, when they will start to gravitate to other sources of music because of natural curiosity, and this is a good time for them to start following methods such as Prodigies, especially if their parents become active participants.
Expanding Exploration and Thought With Music
Children who sing as they play are grasping concepts other than coordination. Researchers have found that children involuntarily learn certain scientific concepts when they sing; for example, their vocalization during play sessions on a swing set tends to match momentum.
A similar situation arises when children practice singing because they unconsciously become aware of how different sounds are produced by their vocal chords. These are concepts related to physics, and they have an opportunity to experience them through singing.
In the end, making singing a part of early childhood education is a win-win situation for children and parents alike.
As previously mentioned, singing is part of early human development; when young children are taught about vocal techniques, they will strike a natural affinity because it will not feel like a difficult task they must accomplish. With all this in mind, children learning to sing at an early age is more like getting better at something that they are ready to enjoy.