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Frequently Asked Questions About Early Childhood Music Education

Frequently Asked Questions About Early Childhood Music Education

Smart StartTM is The Royal Conservatory's signature, research-based Early Childhood Music Education program. Below are some of the frequently asked questions about Smart StartTM.

  • What is Smart Start™?

    Smart Start is a program which uses music, supported by other art forms, to teach cognitive skills to young children.

  • What are cognitive skills?

    Cognitive skills are the basic mental abilities that support us in our everyday activities. Skills such as attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibility are crucial both to daily tasks and special projects, and help us in activities as varied as reading, mathematics, planning, games, and socialization.

  • Why teach cognitive skills? Don’t children just pick those up?

    Research shows that cognitive skills can be developed from a very early age, and that music is one of the very best ways to help develop these skills. Children who learn these skills do better in every sphere of their lives, and research shows that starting early is associated with better cognitive skills.

  • How does it work?

    Cognitive skills are a natural part of music education. For example, in a class, a child might be remembering a new song, paying attention to the teacher, and switching between tapping to the beat and clapping the rhythm. This kind of activity is good practice for cognitive skills as well as musical skills, and is just one of the many ways that our teachers help to develop these skills.

  • How is the Smart Start™ Curriculum different from other Early Childhood Music Education Programs?

    The new Smart Start™ curriculum builds on the RCM's sixty years of fine music pedagogy in early childhood. Under The Marilyn Thomson Early Childhood Education Centre, The RCM has been able to bring together leading subject specialists from across Canada to develop a unique and exciting early childhood program. Together with The RCM's Director of Research, neuroscientist Dr. Sean Hutchins, our early childhood music specialists are allowing a current understanding of cognitive skills to evolve our teaching of music. Also, modern educational practices help us understand that children learn in many different ways and it is important to differentiate the way that we teach to best serve the learning needs of the child. Supporting music with the arts (drama, dance and visual art) creates a full-bodied learning experience, including physical, visual and interpersonal engagement.

  • Will my child learn to play an instrument in Smart Start™ class?

    Children in Smart Start™ develop fine motor control, rhythm, creativity and sophisticated musical understandings through their exploration of a wide variety of percussion and Orff instruments. This learning is wonderful preparation for lessons on a specific instrument later on. Some children will also add a RCM instrumental program, such as the Music Enrichment Program, to their Smart Start™ program. Please discuss with your RCM Student Services Representative which program is right for your child.

  • Will my child learn to read music in Smart Start™ class?

    Smart Start™ classes provide age-appropriate instruction in music reading through games and play-based learning activities. The Smart Start™ curriculum is designed to align with and feed into the RCM Celebrate Theory Program, which begins at age 7.

  • Cognitive Skills! This all sounds pretty serious! Will my child have any fun?

    Smart Start teachers understand that young children learn best when they are engaged by an activity. They are highly skilled in using a great variety of teaching strategies, including stories, play and games. And don’t forget, children naturally enjoy both mental and physical activity. From memory games to creative play, cognitive skill development, especially though music, can be more fun than work.

  • How does research factor in to Smart Start™?

    Research plays an important role in the development, evaluation, and continuation of Smart Start™ classes. Our curriculum is based on current psychological and neuroscientific research on the role of music education on cognitive development. Our teachers receive training in this research, and we continue to refine our curriculum and practices based on it. In addition, in order to keep refining and developing our practices, we conduct original research on the outcomes of our Smart Start™ classes. This voluntary research is maintained through community support, and is vital to our continued improvement as an educational institution.

  • Sign me up! Where do I register for Smart Start classes?


    You can reach us at [email protected], 416.408.2825, or visit our Service Desk to register in person at 273 Bloor Street West.

  • I want my child to participate in research. How do I sign up?

    We invite people of all ages and all musical abilities to participate in our scientific studies through the RCM Research Centre! If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering for a study, please contact us at [email protected] or 416.408.2824 x463.