I was fortunate enough to take several courses with Dr. John Feierabend, a noted music education expert, researcher, and author. He used an analogy of a clay pot to describe a child’s brain development.
At birth, every child is given a lump of clay (potential) for all the possible intelligences (spatial, musical, physcial, etc.) Until age 6, the clay is moldable, and no matter how small the lump of potential, experiences can help mold it into a pot that can hold information in the future. At age 6, the clay pot “hardens”, and now it is ready to hold information like music notation, math facts, written word etc.
This has three implications. The first, if you try to teach a child “information” too early, the “pot” is not solid and ready to hold it. For example, to maximize a child’s musical development, it is more beneficial to work on basic music competence in group classes (like Music Together!) until age 5 or 6 rather than jump too soon into private lessons to study notation and instrumental technique.
The second implication is that early childhood education is so important! Once the “pot” (brain) is solidified at age 6, increasing it’s capacity is very difficult. Providing rich and varied experiences for your young child to play and explore helps to mold the pot and maximize their potential for holding a lifetime of learning.
Third, and most important, is that EVERYONE has potential! Ability is distributed on a normal bell curve, so while there *are* people who have less musical potential than others, EVERYONE gets clay to work with. If you spend time in early childhood working on the pot and making the most of the clay they were given, EVERY CHILD can develop and improve musical (and other!) skills.