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Music hath charms to soothe the savage toddler

SMART parents should dust off those toy flutes and song books, because science has proven jamming with your toddlers beats reading.

A University of Queensland study asked parents of 2 to 3-year-olds how often they participated in shared music playing and then surveyed them when they were five.

Best literacy and numeracy

Kids who experienced the most shared music had the best literacy, numeracy and social skills development.

The findings didn’t surprise Brooklet’s Nathan Cooper, dad of two-year-old twins Santiago and Yindi, for whom music is a part of everyday life.

Mr Cooper’s house boasts an electric organ and musical toys and the toddlers like to turn other household items into musical instruments too.

“Santi especially loves anything drumming, he’ll make drums out of anything,” Nathan said.

“Yindi’s a bit of a free form performance dancer.”

Mr Cooper said music felt “more laid back” compared to letters and numbers.

“It’s easy for toddlers to build up tension and anxiety.

“If you just let them go wild, they get all of that anxiety and tension out.”

Power of music

Lead author Professor Margaret Barrett from the University of Queensland’s School of Music said parents should open their mind to the power of music which traditionally took a back seat to reading and numbers.

“These findings are indicating how important (music) is very early in young children’s life,” she said.

“Kids who did both shared reading and shared music had the best outcomes – so we shouldn’t ditch the books entirely. But nor should we underestimate the power of music.”

Enormous fun

“The research proved it not only boosts literacy, numeracy, and essential social skills but “can be enormous fun, and gives very positive feelings to those participants of belonging.

“That helps family bonding, and families enjoying being in each other’s company.”

Natural choice

While science is backing him up this time, Mr Cooper said it wasn’t an “intellectual choice” to focus on music, but a natural evolution based on the twins’ musical inclinations.

“It can be really easy to get really uptight about your parenting, I think whatever style works for you, as long is the kids are loved and looked after they’ll be fine,” he said.

Hamish Broome, www.northernstar.com.au, www.msidallas.com