If you’re trying to detect your toddler’s natural gifts, that could be tricky at this stage. But artistic traits, like musicality, can sometimes be picked up in the early years, with careful observation.
- Test for a sharp ear.
When background sounds occur, observe your child to see if he looks up and seems to listen. If other children are around, it would be interesting to compare reactions. Of course, he may be too absorbed to bother looking up on that occasion, but a general interest in noises could signal an appreciation of sound and music.
- Test for natural pitch.
Sing or play a continuous note and encourage your toddler to join in. What note does he hit? If it matches yours, that will suggest he can sing in tune. This would be quite unusual for such a young child, suggesting he has an affinity with music. He may find it easier to copy you if you sing a simple tune, rather than just one note.
- Test for interest.
Play different types of music – pop, jazz, classical and choir, say – and watch him for signs that he is listening. If he is listening, you may notice his eyes glaze over or his body start to sway. He may drop the toy he’s playing with or sit down suddenly, especially when you play music he has not heard before. If other young children are present, compare reactions. If he shows more interest than the others, this could signify a strong appreciation of music.
- Check how much he sings and hums
Some children love to sing or hum. If your youngster often sings or experiments with his voice, he may be venting a natural zest for music. But don’t jump to conclusions – he may just be trying out his vocal chords, like all children do.
- Test his interest in musical instruments
If you have a musical instrument available, demonstrate the sound it makes, watching your child’s reaction. Is he hooked, or is he more interested in something else? You might like to buy or borrow a toy instrument for him, such as a mini xylophone or electronic piano, and help him make music with it. Now add some other unfamiliar toys. A very musical child might ignore the other toys after a quick inspection, to explore the instrument further.
What if the signs are negative?
If your child does not respond positively to these rudimentary tests, don’t write off the possibility that he’s musical. They only offer pointers, so keep an open mind. He may have been distracted each time – even a sunbeam on the wall could do that. He might also have sensed he was being observed, and this could have put him off, or maybe he was just tired. Keep the music flowing and he’ll probably respond later.
How should you nurture his musicality?
If you do detect a musical leaning in your child, nurture it gently by humming songs and playing a variety of music recordings. Clap the rhythm or dance to the beat, encouraging him to join in. If there is a sturdy instrument available, such as a piano, keyboard or guitar, allow him some supervised time to play with it. Later, he may enjoy some lessons.
Music offers joy, comfort and inspiration, so if your child is musical, he’ll be fortunate indeed. But there’s plenty more to life than music, and his interests may lie elsewhere.