Music is one of life’s simplest pleasures, transcending age and gender with its power to influence and evoke.
For children, music plays a very important role in learning, development and overall wellbeing. This we know. But what about the lesser known advantages to stem from music's powers of association? After all, music and memory are intrinsically linked, and what we hear and listen to in our younger years does, to some extent, influence what we remember most from this time.
Growing up, children will probably be exposed to a wide range of music genres, from TV adverts, to film, radio and even games. And while the majority of their early musical experiences will be superficial, there will inevitably be some that leave a lasting impression, forming not only the basis for musical taste, but also memory recall of people, places, feelings and emotions.
Those moments of nostalgia triggered by hearing a particular song or style or music are something we're all familiar with. For me, it's the The Pet Shop Boys, which takes me back to the drive home from school when this would be playing on the radio. Or Chris Isaac's Wicked Game, a mere snipped of which is enough to rewind back 25 years to a family holiday in Majorca, when this song would seemingly be playing on repeat at the hotel's pool bar.
These types of memories derive from the implicit memory system of the brain, which is as emotional as it is durable. Things that are remembered implicitly are done so outside of consciousness, and the memories are therefore often surprising and emotive, to say the least. Often, we don't know what is going to come flooding back until a trigger song is played, often many, many years later.
As such, music-triggered memories are not something a child will necessarily appreciate until they are in adulthood, at which point the ability to recall and indulge in childhood experiences through the simple power of a song will be invaluable.
Musical taste and musical memories
Often, musical memories and musical taste go hand in hand, since the power of sentimentality can't be underestimated. A parent's favourite music often inadvertently becomes the soundtrack to all the new and exciting emotions and experiences of growing up, lending the lyrics and music a deeper meaning, which is essentially a cornerstone of musical preference. Of course, for every child who grows up to like the same bands as their parents, there are just as many whose natural response to over-exposure (whether deliberate or not) is to develop a distain for said genre or group.
So as parents, how can we help to harness the powers of music to bring joy to the present, and create potential for reminiscence in the future?
Turning on the radio at home is a routine which has fallen out of favour somewhat in recent years, but it is a trend worth revisiting (particularly in place of 'screen time') as a means to developing a child's potential for future musical nostalgia.
Family music festivals
The growing trend for children's and family music festivals not only opens doors for musical exploration and the development of more eclectic tastes, it also represents a medium for quality family time which, combined with the musical handle, will make a valid contribution to a child's implicit bank.
Learning to play an instrument can help to develop an appreciation of music, as well as patience, confidence and academic skills. Music lessons themselves also open doors to many milestone moments and social opportunities (school concerts, band practice) which are no doubt made all the more memorable for the accompanying self-orchestrated soundtrack.
Variety is key
Exposing children to a range of music-based experiences - from theatre, to movies and even military ceremonies - not only creates opportunities for fun, learning and development, but it also paves the way for some invaluable memories, forged and embedded through the winning combination of entertainment and sound.
This goes to show that a child's musical environment is an important part of their early years experience, and one that is often underestimated.
And while we might not necessarily be able to (or want to) pass on our musical tastes, we can at least now justify replacing the Frozen soundtrack with a bit of Rolling Stones now and then... all in the name of their future nostalgic 'satisfaction,' of course.