Every morning in preschool, we begin the day with a little writing practice at the preschool table. I go to my laptop, which has a permanent place on my kitchen bar, and navigate to Pandora where I select one of my classical music stations to play as calm background music for the children while they work. This helps them stay focused on the task at hand. During morning circle we sing different welcome and days of the week songs, and in reading we chant, clap and sing songs as part of our oral language skills practice and phonemic awareness. Throughout the day, we encounter music frequently, which is an element I have very intentionally included in my curriculum. Music is good for preschoolers, and here is why.[photo credit]
1. Music increases intelligence. Studies show that children who take music lessons or children who are in band or choir tend to maintain higher grade point averages than those who do not. They also preform higher on the SATs, and tend to be better readers and writers.
But what about preschoolers? Music is an excellent way to increase vocabulary. Have you sung a nursery song to your child recently? Did you take the time to explain what cockleshells are, or sixpence, or what a dame is?
Making up songs about everyday things is also a fun way to enjoy music with your children and increase their vocabulary. At our house Dad always makes up the funniest songs. They might be about doing the dishes, changing diapers, tickling baby feet or fixing a shelf in the closet. These silly songs provide a great way to teach our children new words, such as drill bit, scouring pad, or tootsie toes.
2. Music helps with emotional awareness. We know that music can be one of the fastest ways to calm an overtired baby or a raging toddler. My daughter, Corinne, was extremely colicky, and by the time Dad got home from work each evening I was more than ready to toss him a crying baby. His response was always to sing to her, and without fail Corinne would calm enough to fall asleep. My husband simply made up a song with a rhythm similar to an adult heartbeat, and his deep voice was soothing to her.
Music has a way of providing a place for our emotions, as demonstrated by a song that triggers an emotional response, such as sadness or happy memories, and this is certainly the case for preschoolers as well. When William is upset, often he will go to his room and listen to music until he is calm enough to act like a person again. As a girl, I remember practicing the piano extra loudly when I was mad at my mother. Corinne falls asleep each night to Clair De Lune by Debussy, which I love because it brings back fond memories of my late grandmother and it is the song my father and I danced to at my wedding. We respond to music in these ways because music provokes emotional responses, and by exposing children to various kinds of music, they can grow to be more emotionally aware.
3. Music enhances coordination. Expert Don Campbell, author of The Mozart Effect For Children, claims that “the ear’s primary function is coordination and balance within the body…and when we pace things with a musical beat, we are more coordinated.” Clapping rhythms and dancing helps pattern the movement of the body, which increases gross motor skills. Children who can keep rhythm tend to be more successful at sports.
4. Music can increase creativity. Music, even without words, has the ability to tell a story. Consider The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. This ballet with the accompanying orchestra is a traditional story told at Christmas time solely through music and dance. Or, remember the Disney movie Fantasia? This movie has no words, but simply classical music and animation to tell a story. Have your child listen to a piece of wordless music and tell or draw a story of they imagined while listening. Then, play that same piece again and invite your child to act out their story.
Music can be a valuable way to stimulate creative thinking in children. My children love to make up new words to familiar songs. For example, William enjoys deciding what words to put into the traditional tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb. “William had a little giraffe, little giraffe…who had a really long neck.” He always begins with adding basic observations, but then gets more creative. “…whose neck was as long as a brontosaurus.” (Yes, I know, the words don’t really fit, but somehow William crams them all in).
5. Music strengthens social skills.
One of the key skills in working well with others and being successful in life is the ability to listen. Don Campbell claims that by making children aware of the relationship between sound and emotion they will be better prepared to discern others’ state of emotions from their speech. Music can increase our ability to differentiate various instruments and rhythms, thus inadvertently training us to be better listeners.
For further reading…The More We Get Together by Gari Stein Benefits of Music and Movement by Musik Garten Music Training Causes Long Term Enhancement of Preschool Children’s Spacial-Temperal Reasoning by Frances H. Rauscher et. al