Do parents really need prepared infant entertainment to go with microwave meals?
ArtsJournal pointed me to "My Baby, the opera buff," an article in Tuesday's London Times about Scottish Opera's Baby O Project, aimed at exposing children who are 6 to 18 months old to opera.
After reading the story, it's clear that this is not opera, but sort of a live Teletubbies show.
There was a lot of background information on how infants' brains are developed in nice ways by exposure to music.
Then I realised that I had all of this available to me in my own home when I was growing up, but no one called it anything special. My mother sang (and my father tried to), there was classical radio, the record player (there also were LP records, but I changed that when I decided to dump some in the kitchen sink to clean off the dust with Ajax and hot water while my mother was otherwise occupied one afternoon), and, the biggest treat of all, my grandparents' willingness to let me run riot at their piano for a few minutes whenever we went for a visit (a noisy indulgence my mother wouldn't consider).
Instead of allowing piano time for fingers that could only barely reach the keyboard, I was granted kitchen-floor time. I was allowed to use mixing bowls and pots as percussion instruments, but my favourite activity was tuning rubber bands by stretching them between two kitchen-cabinet knobs, then rotating the knobs to increase or decrease the tension while plucking the bands.
Why am I writing all this nonsense? Simply this: Every parent already has everything they need to expose their precious offspring to the joys and wonder of organized sound sitting at home, waiting for the naturally curious eyes and ears. It's just a matter of connecting the miscellaneous dots.
What most parents don't have is the time to actually engage with their children during the day -- or the energy and patience to do it once the workday is finished.
So, enter sophisticated developmental studies and imaginative programs, such as Scottish Opera's, to pick up where the parents leave off, while checking pre-dinnertime emails on the Blackberry. It's much easier to have someone else do the work -- and put up with the noise -- than to do it yourself. Much like buying prepared or microwave meals at the greengrocer's.
But there are some things you can do right now to connect your child with music, even if you're not there to supervise. Start by chatting with the daycare managers to see if some percussion and singing time is part of the daily routine, or, sit down with the nanny to explore the possibilities in and around the house.
I leave you with Exhibit A, a.k.a. little Jun Seo, having the time of her life with four pieces of wood: