With the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival here this week, parents have been asking me a symphony of questions about introducing their child to music. Let me see if I can tune up everyone on this important topic. 

While listening to music is certainly enjoyable, when children actively participate by singing, playing, or dancing, even more benefits can occur. For example, children who are actively involved in music do better in reading, and demonstrate better focus, goal-setting, concentration and cooperation.  

Active participation is also shown to be associated with better math and science performance, since music helps build reasoning skills and cognitive development. It also improves peer relationships and one’s self-esteem, and high school students involved with music are more likely to do better on their SATs and go on to college.

Perhaps the best reason to enjoy playing or listening is that it’s a fun thing to do.  Early school years are a great time to expose your child to a wide array of genres, from classical to country and certainly to jazz. It’s only from third grade on when children become more focused on popular and up-tempo styles like rock, which is not a bad thing unless it’s the only type of music they are exposed to.

So is there a best way to introduce your children to music? Not really, but there are lots of great ways to do the introducing. For example, you could share songs from your childhood or adolescence with your children. Sing in the car or put music on while you are doing chores or your child is playing.

You might combine dancing with music to help your child gain better control of their body movements to the beat, which allows them to build concentration and self-control skills.  Make listening to music together a family activity.  Introduce a new type each week to the entire family and have everyone talk about why they do or do not like it. Outdoor concerts and festivals such as Discover Jazz are great for children to learn about music because they can dance and move around and not bother others.                   

Hopefully tips like these will tune everyone up when it comes to recognizing the importance of introducing your child to music. 

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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