The Importance of Music in your Child’s Development
Multiple studies have found that music is a cornerstone of every culture to calm, to de stress or to simply enjoy . Some call it brain food, some soul food ! Music has been found to be activity that everyone enjoys from babies to adults. Any age and every age benefits from this single activity !
Music helps improve our cognitive function, helps us moderate our emotions, helps with learning a language , helps with enhancing our memory, helps with keeping our brains healthy !!
Research by neuroscientists has shown that music is most beneficial if introduced into our lives before we turn seven. So let’s explore how our children can benefit from music and how we can introduce it at different stages of their lives.
Music during Pregnancy
This is the earliest stage that you can introduce music into your child’s life . Recent studies have shown that fetuses who were exposed to 70 hours of classical music during the last weeks of pregnancy were more advanced in linguistic and motor skills and intellectual development at 6 months after birth compared to those who received no exposure to music .
There is no scientific evidence yet about the benefits of musical stimulation earlier on in pregnancy . however, for mums to be music is a great way to relax and unwind with a cup of peppermint tea !! just make sure that whatever you are listening to is not too loud as it may startle your baby ! sounds greater than 65 decibels are not good for your little one . Soft music that you enjoy yourself will help both you and your baby . if you are calm and relaxed so will your baby be !!
Newborn and Infants
According to Diane Bales, Ph.D., associate professor of human development and family science at the University of Georgia, in Athens, babies “hearing” is well developed soon after birth .this allows them to respond to music very well .
Daniel Levitin, Ph.D., author of This Is Your Brain on Music claims that just as our brains are prewired to learn languages, so it is to learn music . in fact babies start babbling musically along with babbling their first words . Therefore introducing music to babies as early as newborn will help beneficial effects on their development.
Here are some ways we can incorporate music in your child’s life and how they will benefit from it :
- Quiet background music or singing simple short songs to babies will help soothe and calm them especially before sleep . According to research, singing helps babies get a better sleep.
- You can even sing them short songs while doing certain activities like bathing, dressing eating etc . They may not understand the words but they do pick up the melody or pattern of music . this will help them later in to understand speech development.
- They are also learning to communicate by watching your facial expressions while your are singing to them.
- The different sounds you make while singing helps your baby start understanding their emotions and they start learning how to regulate them.
- Regular singing and music helps babies with memory and numeracy skills . even 8 month olds can recognise parts of songs or music constantly played to them.
- If you introduce a musical instrument or simply pots and pans at home to babies even if they are less than 1 year old, they will be instantly drawn to them and try to play a few keys or beats to make some music!! This helps develop fine motor skills like hand-eye coordination.
- It also helps foster a stronger parent-child bond as research has shown that if your are singing while playing or moving with someone , your body releases oxytocin ( the bonding hormone) . this hormone is also released during nursing .
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers are able to show their appreciation of music more than babies. They are able to express themselves better by dancing and singing along and clapping to their favorite songs . if you change a familiar song to something silly like Mary had a little spider instead of little lamb, they will break out laughing as well !! Preschoolers also love songs that help them count, spell learn alphabets etc.
Let’s explore how music plays an important role in your child’s development at this stage :
- By listening to their songs multiple times during a day, your toddler/preschooler will enhance their linguistic and memory skills . they will learn new words from songs and begin to understand and remember them once they hear them all the time.
- Nursery rhymes help with numeracy skills – they will listen to sound patterns and try to differentiate the sequence of the patterns as you sing these to them.
- By dancing and moving to the song, they are building gross motor skills this helps your child move larger muscles ( as in their arms and legs) . it will also improve their coordination and balance and in turn help with excelling in their sporting abilities later in life!
- By listening to music, dancing and laughing at lyrics together, your child will feel loved and gain emotional stability . it will also help them forge a tight bond with you . so enjoy all these little moments together!
- Music will make your child feel good and uplift their mood . they may not be able to tell you directly if they are not talking yet but as soon as their favourite song/music is on, they will bring out into a smile and dance or sing along to show their happiness.
- Singing or music at bedtime or specific times can also help build a routine which gives your toddler a stability as they will know what’s happening next.
- If you introduce a musical instrument and lessons with an instructor at this age, it will help improve their maths ability and help score higher marks in mathematics later !
You might like this video from MOMSPRESSO which explains the role of music in child’s development.
School Age and Teenage
School age children also love songs that help them count, learn the alphabet, spelling etc.They will by now starting liking or disliking certain types of music/songs. They may start showing interest in music lessons as well.
Teenagers use music to bond with their friends . they may form bands or just hang out with friends after school just to chill and enjoy some relaxing time together.
So let’s see how music and musical instruments benefit your child’s development at this stage .
Musical education will help you child develop focus on what they are learning and doing. When they are playing an instrument , they can’t move to the next step until they have learnt the first one . so they have to pay attention . Concentration is enhanced as a result of practicing on a piece repeatedly. Memory will be improved as well as they have to remember the exact sequence or pattern of music to play it properly .
- Hand- eye coordination is developed when playing an instrument . this will help later with excelling in sports or other activities as its helping develop fine motor skills.
- Learning to play a musical instrument will teach your child patience as they have to perfect a piece before going onto the next level . Patience and perseverance will help them later in life with difficult challenges.
- Playing music helps build self confidence and give your child a sense of pride . music helps some children to express themselves better and together with creativity and self confidence , they become better communicators in life . some children can’t excel in studies so playing good music gives them a sense of achievement and purpose.
- The joy and relaxation your child will experience when playing an instrument or singing will help them be happy and reduce anxiety and stress in their lives . In some children this could be the best part of their day ! When your child is relaxed they will be more receptive to learning.
- Your child’s brain is engaged a lot when they learning to play a musical instrument . This allows for increased neural growth. Listening to music also helps with various mental and cognitive experiences and overall brain building.
- It teaches them to strive for perfection. children who play music have to always keep learning to better themselves to achieve the best results. This enhances their competitiveness which equips them with good leadership skills and helps with challenges later in life.
- By performing in front of crowds, your child will gain confidence to speak in public as well as they will be used to crowd handling.
- Music helps develop the left side of the brain which helps develop language and speech abilities. So it makes them better communicators and speakers.
- By being part of a band or choir, your child learns to work in team . everyone relies on each other’s performance in a team for the best outcome. So it teaches your child to work together with other people in the team for the best possible outcome .
Apart from social and emotional benefits, music has been shown to have educational benefits in all ages , especially school age and teenage children .
Research shows that one year of music training enables students to read one grade higher than those not training . those with two years of training could read Two levels higher than their reading age. So music training will enhance your child’s reading levels which will increase with more experience .
There has been a lot of research done on the effect of music on education at different levels and listed below are some examples
- Children in an elementary school were introduced to skill building, enriched music lessons.those students whose reading and maths skills were lower than the control group showed marked improvement and had caught up to the same level in reading while pulling ahead in math.
- Children who were given piano lessons showed a dramatic improvement in their spatial-temporal IQ scores which important for some types of mathematical reasoning than those with no lessons or computer lessons.
- A research team has also reported that the link between music and intelligence is far superior to computer instructions as music training dramatically enhances children’s abstract reasoning skills. These skills are necessary for learning maths and science.
In 1998 A McGill University study students given music instructions for a 3 year period could recognise patterns better and their mental representation scores improved significantly . their self esteem also enhanced while taking music lessons.
If you like to see some more information on other research studies done on music and child development, please click on this link The Mozart Effect: Fact or Fiction?
How to Select Music or Musical Instruments for Your Child
It’s important to recognise that although every child loves music, some will be more inclined to pursue music lessons than others . many factors play a role in what’s the right instrument for your child . Ideally a musical instrument should be introduced from 6 years and up as then children show a real aptitude and likeness to create music .
Here are some tips to help make the right choice :
- Always let your child have a say in what they want to play or learn as they will be the ones playing it . having said that , Also keep in mind that mostly the two musical instruments have been shown to last into adulthood are the piano and guitar. Maybe your child can take these up alongside what they like to play ( if it’s different).
- You should be able to afford the musical instrument without compromising on your living standards. Pianos are not cheap!
- Do you have enough space in your house for the instrument ( especially if it’s a piano) . Help your child choose something that suits the space in your house.
- Can everyone else handle the type of instrument your child wants to play ? for example drums can be a bit hard on your years as it tends to get loud . if you have kids who are younger or newborn stage than this may not be ideal.
- What music do they like best will also help decide what instrument they would like to play. If they are into rock or pop than a guitar and drums will be a better choice than a flute!
- If your child is into singing and songwriting than a guitar or piano maybe ideal as then they can sing while playing !
While these are just some ideas, always let your child try some instruments first to see what they like to play and what they can handle . if they are not comfortable with their instrument , they may not be able to make good music !! Your child should be always satisfied with their choice ! Remember that this may be a lifelong thing . so help your child make the right choice by exposing them to concerts, instruments etc when they show some inclination towards taking up music instructions . talk to instructors, parents of other students. Show them a lot of music videos or simply take them to a live concert for inspiration.
we can see now how important music is in your child’s development .Music helps provide social, emotional and education benefits in your child and it should be an integral part of everyday life be it at school or at home .
Encourage your child to take up lessons and introduce simple music earlier on in life to help them grow into a better person, academically and emotionally. Even if they just simply enjoy listening to music , they will be happier and relaxed !
However, never force your child for lessons but teach them to enjoy music from a young age and have lots of fun together with music in the background, singing, and dancing !