Children thrive on music. It’s one of the best vehicles for learning in early childhood development. Psychologists, neuroscientists, and educational experts all agree that music does more for children than simply bring joy; it helps their brain cells make the connections needed for virtually every kind of intelligence.
When young children are consistently engaged in music, research shows they benefit at many levels. Read on to find out five ways music can help young children’s development.
Music can help your child become a better reader.
The human brain is hardwired to understand language and process music. Many of the areas in the brain that are responsible for language are also activated when we listen to music.
But, you don’t need to be a neuroscientist to recognise how interconnected they are. If you’ve been around a baby you have probably noticed that many adults naturally adjust their voices when they speak to a newborn. This sing-song, higher pitched, almost melodic use of language (known as ‘parentese’) is common in virtually all languages. It’s amazing too, how quickly infants can respond to the tone, rhythm and melody of an adult’s voice. They do so long before they understand the meaning of the words that are spoken. What’s more, when babies do begin to speak they do so by listening and copying the sounds they hear around them.
With language and music being so interrelated, it makes sense then, that regular involvement in music lessons helps to build these networks of connections in the brain. Through music, they are learning to identify the differences in the sounds they hear around them. This phonological awareness helps them to recognise the different sounds present in words, therefore, making learning to read and write easier. Interestingly, research carried out in 2014, found that three- and four-year-old children who could keep a steady musical beat were more ‘reading-ready’ at five years old than those who couldn’t.
Music can help your child develop maths skills
When we listen to music with our children we are instinctively teaching them to recognise the beat, rhythm and melody, all skills which are connected to mathematical concepts.
When we clap or tap out a beat we help children to count. This not only helps them to learn number names but also helps with the concept of one-to-one correspondence (the idea of counting each object as you say each number).
When we sing a melody we help children to recognise patterns, memorise lyrics and visualise language. Doing this helps children build their spatial-temporal and reasoning skills.
Music can help your child develop social skills
Research has shown that active participation in group music classes helps us feel positive social feelings about those we are with. It’s not known why this happens for sure but it is thought to be due to the release of pleasure hormones (endorphins) that are released when we successfully coordinate or ‘sync’ with others musically.
In another study, 30 minutes of singing was shown to significantly raise oxytocin levels. Oxytocin, which is also known as the ‘love hormone’, tends to be linked to the warm, fuzzy feelings we get when we’re bonding with others.
Music has also been shown to activate the brain areas involved in empathy. A study involving primary-aged children found that those who had spent one hour a week playing musical games had significantly raised their empathy scores in an assessment at the end of the year compared with children who had not.
Music can help your child develop physically
Through involvement in music classes, children enhance their coordination, strengthen their muscles and develop their motor skills. A motor skill is a specific movement of the body’s muscles to enable it to accomplish a particular task, this could be a large muscle movement like dancing or banging a drum (called a gross motor skill) or a small movement (a fine motor skill) such as plucking a string or pressing a key on a piano.
Moving and dancing to music also teaches children about directionality which is an important skill and helps them develop spatial awareness, visual-spatial skills and body control.
Music can help your child develop creatively
Researchers have shown that actively participating and responding to music boosts children’s creativity. Activities that encourage freedom of expression, musical experimentation and freedom of movement have all been found to spark the imagination and help children think creatively.
What’s the best way to expose your child to music?
Apart from all the amazing benefits already discussed, music has the power to change a mood, inspire, motivate and introduce children to other cultures and traditions.
As a parent, being aware of the learning potential that music provides is a great first step. Singing, dancing and sharing a range of different genres of music with your child is a fantastic introduction and one that requires no musical training on your part! Sometimes learning about music can not be pre-planned (nor should it!). There are moments when a child will spontaneously explore musical concepts during their independent play. In these moments observe them, wait, and, when your child requests it, respond by echoing their actions, asking a question or extending their play.
If it’s possible to do so, I am a great believer in joining a group session too. The social benefits not to mention the expertise of the group leader are factors that you cannot replicate at home. I recently met Row Smith, owner of Kindermusik by Jan, a music and movement class for children from birth to seven. The Kindermusik programme uses music from all over the world and uses learning approaches inspired by Montessori, Steiner, Dalcroze, Orff and Kodaly to name a few. The Kindermusik curriculum is proven to improve a child’s brain development and take their musical learning to the next level and it meets the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and the National Curriculum Guidelines in the UK.
Chatting with her inspired me to write this blog and share our mutual passion for children’s learning. I’m not particularly musical myself but I do try to ensure music is a daily part of our day. It’s something that I’m really passionate about.
Row has kindly offered a free trial to anyone who reads this blog and is local to her classes which run in Burgess Hill, West Sussex. If you would like to find out more about Kindermusik by Jan you can visit https://www.kindermusikbyjan.co.uk/ or contact Row directly via the contact details below.