Research by The Montreal Neurological Institute identifies an optimal age for putting your kids in music classes.Highly skilled musicians such as Yo-Yo Ma, Oscar Peterson, and Pablo Casals began training in early childhood, all before the age of 7 years. Such observations suggest that there may be a sensitive period when early musical training, which surely would include training in dance as well, has greater effects on the brain and behavior than training later in life. Such periods of heightened sensitivity would likely interact with preexisting individual differences in ability, along with environmental factors, to result in the expertise observed in such outstanding musicians.
For Lise Buelow, a mom in Barrie, Ont., there’s something magical about age three. That’s when each of her kids began piano lessons — and the results are music to her ears. Nicholas, 6, and Quinn, 9, still study piano; CJ, 11, plays trumpet; and Shaundra, 13, switched to violin after completing grade six piano, and recently taught herself the drums. “Music is just a language for her now,” she says. “Early exposure is a lot of that.
Lise Buelow, says Today’s Parent Magazine, may be on to something. In the same way that children who learn a second language at a younger age often become more fluent than those who start later,the study suggests there are significant benefits to early music lessons. Brain scans of musicians who started training on an instrument before age seven showed stronger connections between motor regions – areas of the brain that help plan and carry out movements such as fingering and coordinating both hands – than those who began lessons later on, despite having the same amount of musical training and experience overall. Early trainers in the study also had better accuracy and precision.
The Montreal Neurological Institute Study also noted that evidence for sensitive periods in humans comes from other studies as well:studies of second language learning showing that early exposure results in greater proficiency (Johnson and Newport, 1989; Kuhl, 2010), studies of deaf children showing that receiving cochlear implants earlier results in better language development (Sharma et al., 2007), and studies of blind persons showing greater neuronal reorganization following early blindness (Sadato et al., 2002; Frasnelli et al., 2011). Although they did not have a study on the effects of early dance lessons, the conclusion to be reached can only be that early dance lessons will have a similar result..
Dance With Us Ottawa has a number of programs for youngsters to tap into their ability to learn at a faster pace and in a more lasting way. Says Oksana Ivanova-Shelkovy , co-owner of the studio,” The fun factor is important as well as a genuine interest in music and dance. We see many kids come in under our group program. From there they often begin taking privates, with some going on to compete and others continuing for the social aspects and the ability to interact with the music.”