Newborns eyes look all around when they first begin to perceive the world. They almost seem to be squinting to figure out what they are sensing. They turn their heads to a new sound and seem to focus for a bit. One way to soothe a crying baby…when humming or singing doesn’t seem to be doing the job… turn on the radio! The baby may be distracted enough to settle into a relaxing snooze. Suzuki would have not been surprised at that.
Infants Are Like Seedlings
A baby’s brain doubles in size the first year, and by age 3 its brain is 80 % of its adult volume. To take advantage of that stage of development, Suzuki said that infants are like seedlings. He said we wouldn’t let a sprout whither and then give it a lot of fertilizer, sunlight, and water, thinking that is the right time to grow. It’s too late for the withered sprout. Likewise, we don’t set babies and toddlers aside until they enter kindergarten, saying, “That’s when education begins.”
Suzuki said you can’t expect a bumper crop when you plant nothing. What you will get will be whatever seeds happen to land in the field. Don’t leave education up to chance. If you do, you won’t get what you hoped for.
Plant early enough in the season! Suzuki told a story about Darwin who was asked by a mother when she should start educating her one and a half year-old son. Darwin told her she was a year and a half too late.
Suzuki observed how children learn by watching the way babies learned to talk. They seem to learn to speak almost overnight once they begin. He says a young baby learns one word at first, which is repeated by the adults around him or her. Then later another word is added, but the first word is not dropped. He based his teaching Method on the way a baby learns language. Listening! He says to start with listening to music. Immerse the infant with good music.
Very, Very Early Suzuki Training!
Start your Suzuki training from the time of birth. Not because you want your child to be an Einstein. But because you really do know it is the right thing to do. Surround the infant with good music. Since infants hear and absorb the sounds of their environment, play good music softly in the background. Play it at home and in the car. Learning to play violin, for a baby, is simply listening to music.
From birth to age 3 is the best time to develop an ear for music. Play one piece repeatedly during the day. The music should be played softly. Just loud enough to know it is on. Suzuki says that if you play a five-minute piece of Mozart, for example, every day, by the age of 5 months, the baby has learned it.
Suzuki’s experiment: After listening to the same piece for 5 months, play a different piece of music for the baby; then switch to the familiar piece. Observe the baby’s response. For the 1st piece, the baby will listen intently and his or her eyes will be absorbed. As soon as the music switches to the familiar piece, the baby will smile, look for his mother, and may even shake his or her body to the rhythm of the old piece. Suzuki says the piece has become the baby’s music—a comfort.
Eventually add more pieces, one at a time. The result is “a heightened musical sensitivity” similar to that of the acquisition of language.
Choose Beautiful Music
Select beautiful music from the European masters. It has sophistication and intricacy which appeals to children. You wouldn’t put off looking at beautiful masterpieces and only focus on simple sketches. Likewise, babies shouldn’t have to listen to simple melodies only, without the opportunity to hear masterpieces.
Babies don’t need to understand the music. Music is sensed, not understood. Adults don’t necessarily understand music, but they certainly can feel it. So it is with infants.
A good blog to read on listening equipment is: Listening! on Stay Tuned website.
“The fate of a child is in the hands of his parents.” Shinichi Suzuki