"Researchers found that children who were given music lessons in primary school instead of more maths and language lessons actually developed skills in those subjects far more effectively than other children did."
Even the youngest baby will respond to a piece of music she recognises. Research shows that newborns show signs of recognition if they listen to a tune that was often played while in the uterus during pregnancy.
And as soon as babies can grasp, their first movement is to bang whatever they're holding, listening to the noise and feeling the vibrations through their fingers. So whether you're a fan of The Killers, Celine Dion or Keith Urban, it's never too early to get in and support your kids' natural love of music.
Just noise, or music?
All young children instinctively love to make sounds - dropping pan lids, beating on a table, or trying to sing a well-known nursery rhyme. While it can give you a headache, it's actually good for them.
Sheila Roberts, a classically trained musician who is researching the benefits of introducing music to pre-school children, believes it is vital for their development.
"Using instruments can help with hand-eye coordination and listening skills," she says. "Singing boosts language development because of the repetition, rhythm and rhyme. And matching and differentiating between various kinds of sound helps in the development of mathematical concepts."
Studies in Sweden and the US back up these findings. Dubbed the "Mozart effect", researchers found that children who were given music lessons in primary school instead of more maths and language lessons actually developed skills in those subjects far more effectively than other children did.
Easy ways to encourage them
Even the most non-musical and off-key parent can encourage their child to enjoy music. Children will just love the sound of your voice, the fact that you're interacting with them, and the fun of making different noises. You don't have to go out and buy expensive musical toys. Preschoolers will love helping you to make home-made toys, such as a shaker with an old plastic bottle, some dry rice, macaroni or seeds, decorated with brightly coloured paper.
There are many ways you can encourage your child to enjoy the pleasure of music:
* Start with clapping games and encourage your child to join in. Let her copy you.
* Make your own instruments - a wooden spoon beating on a tin lid or plastic bottles half-filled with water.
* Sing nursery rhymes and songs with her and, when she's old enough, encourage her to join in. Leave gaps in the rhyme and let her fill in the missing words.
* Show her how to make music with her mouth - clicking, whistling, humming.
* Introduce songs with movements, such as Row, Row, Row Your Boat or The Wheels On The Bus.
* Make up, or change, well-known songs, using her name in them. Encourage her to think up verses and silly rhymes.
* Use bathtime for making sounds - blowing bubbles with a straw or splashing water about using containers.