If there is one truth of parenting, it is that no matter how good you think your voice is, your children will one day tell you to stop singing in the car. But according to new research, mums and dads should soldier on and keep belting out their favourite tunes behind the wheel, despite the pleas from the little people in the backseat.
The US study 'Songs from the Car Seat: Exploring the Early Childhood Music-Making Place of the Family Vehicle' found that road trips provide a unique environment in which families and young children can explore their enjoyment of music without distraction.
Firstly, children are a captive audience while in the backseat of a car; secondly, there is minimal eye contact from parents, which gives children a sense of freedom to experiment with music. The confined space in the car helps parents focus on their children, play games and reflect on the songs listened to and sung.
"So often as parents we think of long car trips or commutes as drudgery, but the participants in this study reported joyful, reflective, quiet and sparkling moments of music making," said lead researcher Lisa Koops, Associate Professor of Music Education at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.
"Providing children with a rich musical environment and expecting them to be musical ensures that children can experience music and find their musical voices during childhood and for years to come."
Koops was prompted to carry out the research after realising during her own daily 20-minute commute to her daughter’s preschool that the family vehicle might be the ideal, but overlooked, place to develop her child's awareness and interest in music.
For the study she signed up five families with nine children, aged from 10 months to 4.5 years, between them and instructed parents to incorporate music activities into the daily routine, focussing not only on what happens at home but also while driving with their children.
While in the car children were encouraged to sing, listen to music and react to different music they produced or heard on the car’s radio or CD player. Parents kept a diary of musical activities in the car over a nine week period and also videoed their children's responses to musical activities.
At the end of the nine week study, parents were interviewed and they reported that the backseat of the family car was the place where their children were most enthusiastic about taking part in musical activities and using music to interact with their siblings.
Koops says the findings show parents should be encouraged to sing and listen to music with their children on car trips in order to make the most of the unique learning environment provided by the family car.
The positive impact that early music appreciation has on learning in later life has been shown by many studies, Koops says.
So there you have it: whether it's 'Wheels on the Bus', 'Walking on Sunshine' or 'Wake Me Up Before you Go, Go', sing it proudly. If your children complain, drive on and just sing louder.
And just for fun, here's a video of a family car singalong - so cute!