By Ian Currie
The Baylor School of Music creates a unique garden once a week where the youngest in the community can grow. It is a garden of music.
The Musikgarten Family Music for Toddlers, a music class for young children and their parents, helps children grow musically and intellectually starting at a young age.
Director of piano pedagogy Lesley McAllister teaches the classes and uses the program to help build musicality in children between the ages of 15 months and 3 years.
The class is held at 10 a.m. every Friday in Waco Hall.
“The earlier a child is exposed to music, especially by a caregiver, the better their musicality develops,” McAllister said.
Toddlers cannot play complicated instruments, but they are not too young to begin developing musically. Therefore the program focuses on singing and moving, as well as playing simpler percussion instruments.
“Parents help build their babies’ rhythmic foundation through song and movement,” McAllister said. “Research shows that it assists language development and develops the bond between parent and child.”
The class is also an opportunity for parents to spend time with their children in a different setting than the home.
Heather Miller, whose child has been in the program for eight months, said it is good to get time outside the house with her child.
“It is nice to have someone else structuring activities for my child,” Miller said.
Miller said she takes personal enjoyment in the classes.
“The social aspect is positive — it is fun to be with other parents,” Miller said.
McAllister said she believes the lessons of the classroom extend into the children’s daily lives.
“It is a lot of fun for the parents too, and they build on the knowledge they acquire outside of class,” McAllister said.
The class attempts to provide a musical experience based on the folk music of our time, such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Ring Around the Rosy.”
She said the class is relaxed and fun and is not as strenuous as private music lessons.
McAllister said toddlers are not ready to study music on their own, but that their age is the perfect time to begin developing their musicality.
“My child benefits immensely in areas of musicality, social skills, communication and coordination,” Miller said.
McAllister’s son took part in the classes. She said she could see the benefits of the class in developing his musical potential.
McAllister said she hopes to involve graduate students in the running of the program as it continues into future semesters. Currently, she is the only one instructing the classes.
She said early musical development in children is a popular trend at the moment, and that this program could provide the perfect situation for students to learn how to teach in that unique environment.
For more information on enrolling in the program, visit www.baylor.edu/music/community.