Whether your child is the next Andrea Bocelli or maybe his voice is best for the shower, there are huge benefits of music education. Research shows that learning the fundamentals of music has a positive and healthy impact in every domain of development, and this is especially true for preschool aged children.
Singing and music play an important role in our culture. In any culture, in fact. It’s often the link that brings differences together.
And in modern society, you will find music everywhere because it has such an important role in our culture. We sing at birthdays and holidays, colleges have fight songs, the military has ceremony music, and religions are thick with hymns and chants to show devotion. It’s found at every special occasion and even the most mundane of tasks. (Don’t our kids sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star as they wash their hands, just to make sure they wash long enough?)
And we use music to teach.
Most mornings in preschool, we begin the day with a little name 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 songs and thematic songs, and in reading we chant, clap and sing songs as part of our oral language skills practice and phonological awareness lessons.
Throughout the day, we encounter music frequently, which is an element I have very intentionally included in my curriculum.
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10 Awesome Benefits of Music
I’m sure you’ve heard it before. Music is good for preschoolers. But let me tell you just exactly why music is so good for them!
1. Music increases test scores.
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 perform higher on the SATs, and tend to be better readers and writers. A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga even found some evidence that children involved in music scored slightly higher on IQ tests than children who did not take music lessons or have a music-rich education.
Now, this is NOT to say that music makes you smarter. While that topic has been passed around fro a few decades, it’s not atucally true. But rather, see reason #2 in our list of benefits of music.
2. Music Makes the Brian Work Harder
Research shows that the brain of a musician simply works differently than those who are not musically inclined. Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, says,
There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain.
Ellen Winner, professor of psychology at Boston College studied the effect of music on the brain in children who participated in music education or musical programs. Brain images found that children who were involved in music showed greater networks within the brain, making certain tasks easier. This included sound recognition and fine motor skills.
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3. Music Improves Memory
Maestro Eduardo Marturet, a conductor, composer and musical director for the Miami Symphony Orchestra, says,
Further research has shown that participation in music at an early age can help improve a child’s learning ability and memory by stimulating different patterns of brain development.
Hopefully, this means that children will start remembering where they put their coat or that their candy wrapper goes in the trash and not on the floor.
4. Music Develops Language Skills
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?
Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” claims Children’s Music Workshop.
It’s no wonder children love to learn with music. It always seems that if it is in a song or chant, it will be remembered.
5. Music helps with emotional awareness
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. As a girl, I remember practicing the piano extra loudly when I was mad at my mother. When my children were babies, they fell 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.
[Music] can satisfy the need to unwind from the worries of life, but unlike the other things people often use for this purpose, such as excessive eating, drinking, or TV or aimless web browsing, it makes people more alive and connected with one another.
That statement is by Michael Jolkovski, a psychologist who specializes in musicians. Music evokes emotions.
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6. 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.
7. Music Strengthens Social Skills
Music is strongly tied to culture, but it is also a social activity. From a night out with friends or the half-time show at a ball game to songs we sing at celebrations or simply sharing the latest tune from the radio, music is social and found at all social events.
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.
Marturet, who also oversees the MISO Young Artist program in South Florida, says,
Socially, children who become involved in a musical group or ensemble learn important life skills, such as how to relate to others, how to work as a team and appreciate the rewards that come from working together, and the development of leadership skills and discipline.
8. 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).
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9. Music Teaches Discipline
Practice makes perfect. To do well in music, you must not only practice but practice consistently, which takes huge amounts of discipline. Music has proven to be especially helpful for children with ADHD, helping them focus, as Mira Stulberg-Halpert of 3D Learner Inc says.
Exposing kids to musical instruments is the key. They are naturally curious and excited about them — and the discipline that parents AND kids learn by sticking with it is a lesson in itself.
10. Music keeps children learning
There are just some things that you can never know completely, like the astronomy or anthropology. Music is like that as well. “It is inexhaustible — there is always more to learn,” says Jolkovski.