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Music Hits the Right Notes

Giving Music Foundation To Your Preschooler

Early music lessons hit all the right notes.

"If music is a foundation as a child, it's like a second language," says Daniel Levitin, author of "This is Your Brain on Music" and a professor of music psychology at McGill University in Montreal.

Music, he says, exercises the attentional circuits in the brain and positions children to do better in the classroom. Children who know music read earlier and do scholastic tasks like mathematics more quickly. Plus, music has also been shown to stimulate the motor cortex. For example, some children with Down's Syndrome have learned to tie their shoes to the beat of music, he says.

Besides listening to CDs in the car and at home, involving your child in a music class richens the experience. Some libraries offer free music classes. Around age 3, formal music instruction can begin. Levitin suggests starting with the piano or keyboard and gradually progressing to a string or wind instrument.

Keep in mind, though, that at this age, the focus should be on fun. Even if you think your child is the next Mozart, don't try to push your little one to practice or force an interest. Early music lessons should be about exploration and experimentation. And besides, short daily practices are better than lengthy ones. "The way the brain emulates music, a little bit goes a long way," Levitin says.

Expose your child to all kinds of music — classical, jazz, pop, Indian, rap, blues.

"The brain forms neuro-connections in response to the auditory stimulus it receives, giving a lifetime of brain circuitry you just can't get as an adult," Levitin says.

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