Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Sponsored Content

New music program in Vancouver enhances childhood cognitive development using music, movement and play

Offered by Vancouver Academy of Music in partnership with Royal Conservatory of Music, Smart Start aims to foster musical proficiency and cognitive fundamentals in young children ages 0 to 3
The Smart Start program utilizes play-based music education to foster the development of four key cognitive skills in children: attention, memory, perception and cognitive flexibility. Photo via VAM

Does your child light up whenever you sing them a lullaby or whenever they hear an instrument being played? That's a sign that your little one was born with an innate love of music, which is a gift that you could start nurturing in them as soon as now.

In addition to programming for school-aged children, teenagers, and adults, leading musical arts institution Vancouver Academy of Music (VAM) is introducing a new early educational program in partnership with the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM), for children from infanthood to the age of 3 to give them a head start in their journeys in music, in academia and in life. 

Research-based curriculum design

The RCM Smart Start Program is part of a joint effort to enhance early childhood cognitive development through the combination of music, movement and play.

The curriculum was developed by Dr. Sean Hutchins, director of research at RCM; Catherine West, early childhood music education expert; and RCM's Neuroscience Research Centre. The team’s neuroscience-backed research on the effects of music training on the developing brain revealed clear differences in activity in the areas of the brain related to perception, language, spatial abilities, sound processing, and IQ.

Through engaging in play-based music education with children, the Smart Smart program is designed to help pupils in developing the four key cognitive skills – attention, memory, perception and cognitive flexibility.

Age-specific cognitive development

Launching soon in Vancouver, Smart Start’s 2024-2025 academic year will offer four levels that cater to each progressive stage of the child's cognitive development.

For infants ages 0 to 12 months, the goal is to foster basic cognitive skills through a musical framework, and to help parents and guardians learn ways to interact with their child through music, with particular attention paid to beat, rhythm and listening. Class begins with a greeting song, followed by gentle bouncing games and finger play, more songs and movement, and concludes with a lullaby.

At the next level, young toddlers ages 12 to 24 months will further develop their listening, memory, coordination and spatial awareness skills through repetition, imitation, and artistic play. Social skills will also be fostered through experiencing the lessons in a group setting. The active, music-based activities in this class include games built around walking, dancing and percussion instruments such as bells and shakers.

Children at the age of 2 are just beginning to develop more complex motor functions and cognitive skills. The next stage of the Smart Start program aims to help children move their bodies in time to sounds, using simple musical instruments like maracas and drums. The class will also help children with developing musical skills such as remembering songs and recognizing cues. 

By age 3, children’s basic cognitive skills are in place, and at the same time, they are beginning to develop their singing voices. As such, singing becomes a vital component of the curriculum, as pupils learn foundational musical skills such as tempo, meter pitch and volume together with fellow students. Most students of Smart Start are ready to attend class independently (without their parent or guardian) by this age.

VAM provides an extensive range of programs tailored to diverse musical interests and skill levels. Photo via VAM

Linguistic and cultural enrichment

RCM’s research uncovered that musical skills are linked to enhanced language abilities in early childhood. To nurture this connection, Smart Start helps children focus on the rhythmic qualities of speech by introducing them to musical material in multiple languages. The exploration of a wide variety of songs, rhymes, instruments, games and listening experiences effectively promotes musical understanding, cultural diversity and linguistic development. 

Long-term benefits

In addition to enhanced musical abilities, the long-term benefits of RCM Smart Start on young children include increased pre-reading ability, vocabulary size, and phonemic awareness. These improvements extend beyond the normal developmental progression during this timeframe and further corroborates the link between music and cognitive abilities.

The next generation of music leaders

A beacon of music education in British Columbia, the Vancouver Academy of a music is where music-lovers of all ages and abilities gather and explore the diverse tapestry of musical opportunities. VAM provides a diverse array of programs, from introductory classes for children to advanced training for aspiring young professionals, and enriching experiences for adults, catering to all ages and levels of musical interest. From orchestra programs and private lessons, the academy caters to the diverse tapestry of musical disciplines, encouraging students to push the boundaries of musical expression and explore their artistic voice. 

For more information on registering your child for the 2024/2025 RCM Smart Start program, visit Join Smart Start experts Dr. Hutchins, Kimerica Parr, and Lindsey Pino on May 11th at 2:00 PM for a webinar with interactive Q&A sessions, click here to reserve your spot.