By Jonathan Duffy, Arctic Meta
It doesn’t matter where a child grows up; it’s generally a given that music will become a part of their life very early on. Their parents and family will start to sing songs to them when they are a baby; as they grow, songs become a way to deliver knowledge so they can remember it, and eventually, they develop their own tastes in music.
Most people experience music long before they ever learn how to read, write, perform mathematical equations or even talk. Most adults probably have specific musical moments that are attached to their childhood. Maybe there was a song a family member used to sing that made them feel comfort, perhaps there was a favourite piece of music that reminds them of a particular time of year, maybe they learned their multiplication tables through songs and even at nearly 40, they still have to hum it to figure out what 5 multiplied by 9 equals.
Music is so present in life, but how does it actually help children develop? What effects does music have on the human brain? What skills does it help strengthen? Read on to find out all this and more.
How Does Music Support Children’s Brain Development?
The effects of music on brain development have been theorised for quite some time, and recent studies have shown that the introduction of music actually has a positive effect. One study in 2016 actually found that experiencing music in early childhood can help to speed up the development of the brain, especially when it comes to language acquisition and reading.
Other studies have found links between academic success and learning how to play an instrument. Another study by the National Association of Music Merchants in the United States found that kids who learn to play a musical instrument tend to achieve better test scores at the end of high school than those who don’t.
There are numerous benefits to music and music education on childhood development, but academic success isn’t the only factor. Music is also enjoyable, which is often exactly what a growing child needs when they are constantly negotiating and learning about the world around them.
Why is Music Important For Early Childhood Development?
Apart from academic success and providing some fun bops to dance to, music genuinely has some pretty essential benefits to a lot of elements of early childhood development.
Develops Fine and Gross Motor Control
When people talk about motor skills or motor control, they are talking about the ability to make the body do what the brain wants it to. This might sound easy as an adult, but it’s actually an entire process that was honed and maintained over years.
Motor skills can be divided into two categories. Gross motor skills are ones that involve large muscle groups; things like sitting independently and walking are included in this. Fine motor skills use smaller muscles and usually more intricate movements, things like grabbing objects, drawing or tying shoelaces.
Music has been shown to assist the development of both fine and gross motor skills mainly because it encourages movement, which assists in the fine-tuning of brain and body coordination. The more a child moves of their own free will, the more they learn about what their body can do, and the better they become at controlling it.
Music Builds Intimacy
Most experts agree that close intimate relationships are essential for the development of children. The science seems to show that the more contact kids have with their parents in the first few years, the better equipped they tend to be for the big world.
Music can help facilitate the closeness between parents and other family members with young children. Studies have shown that babies will actually pay more attention to songs or lullabies than they will to adult conversations or baby talk. Things like lullabies also help to calm children and create a sense of security.
Music Creates a Sense of Belonging
The sense of belonging is integral to a child’s understanding of their own identity. Kids first belong to their families, then they belong to things like a neighbourhood, a class at school, a sports team, a city and so on. At all of these stages in their development, they need to understand the similarities and differences between the new groups they are in and the old ones that give them comfort. They have to assess their surroundings and people and somehow figure out if they feel like they belong and, if they don’t, what they can do to fix that.
One of the first and sometimes hardest steps in the life-long quest for belonging is when they take their first steps into a classroom. They are suddenly in a place that doesn’t look like their home, has different rules and sometimes even smells different. They’re surrounded by people they don’t really know and are told that they are now going to spend some part of every day with them. In this situation, a sense of belonging can not only become suddenly very important, but it can also be scary.
Music has the remarkable ability to bring people from all walks of life together and help them to see that new relationships can be formed. Kids might not know each other, but they might love the same song they have learned in class, and this can be a great jumping-off point to create new relationships which become new groups to belong to.
Music Expands Creativity and Imagination
When a child’s brain is developing, they will begin to attempt to mimic the sounds in the environment around them. This might sound like they are trying to communicate, and sometimes they are, but they are also performing an innate physical task that helps to strengthen the neural pathways in the brain that will eventually allow them to listen and speak.
Studies have shown that babies who are spoken to directly tend to have larger vocabularies than those who aren’t by the time they are toddlers. It’s believed that the sounds being specifically directed to them will help encourage this neural pathway development, and music has been shown to yield similar results. Once they eventually do learn how to speak, music also introduces kids to new ideas and subjects that will help ignite their curiosity and imagination.
Music Boosts IQ
Most parents want to give their kids the best possible tools they can for success in life. This is the reason why parents make sure homework is done, support extracurricular activities and try to make sure they get enough sleep. Anything that might help them learn more and boost their IQ is worth a shot; this is probably why many parents have seen way too many episodes of Paw Patrol.
The good news is that science has found that a lot of these things do actually help increase potential intelligence later in life. One thing in particular that has shown very promising results is music education. A study in 2004 tested children’s IQs before and after receiving regular piano lessons for nine months. The kids gained an average of at least three IQ points at the end of the experiment.
Music Cultivates Patience in Kids
Patience is not something children are known for, and when putting their lives into perspective, it’s easy to see why. Time as they know it is only something that is short, so their perception of what it means to wait and persevere with things is much different than that of an adult.
Most grown-ups can remember that the time between summer vacation and Christmas felt like an eternity in childhood, and now it feels like just a blink. The ability to be patient and work towards long-term goals is a skill that is learned; it’s not innate.
Learning a musical instrument is a great way to cultivate and develop patience and perseverance in children. They learn very quickly that consistent lessons, study and practice pay off, and a child who learns to be patient is going to be more prepared in the massive waiting room that adult life can sometimes be.
Music Improves Children’s Sensory Development
The sensory development of children refers to the ability to use and comprehend the senses. This is how kids initially discover the world. They do it through vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell. When children are developing their senses, they begin to understand things like how much space they take up, how loud they can be, what things they like to touch and that maybe they shouldn’t taste things that they find on the floor.
Exposure to music in early childhood helps to open more pathways between brain cells, which enables better cognitive processing of the senses. This enhancement is made even stronger if other activities are combined with music like dancing and singing. Kids who have better sensory control and understanding tend to do well at things like maths, art, architecture, gaming and much more.
Music Improves Literacy
Understanding language is a complex skill that is developed over many years in early childhood. Children primarily learn to process language through listening, and this sets up how their brains perceive and interpret words for the rest of their lives. What many people might not realise is that the way humans process language and music are very similar. This can be a reason why some people are unable to write when they listen to music with lyrics.
Because of the way the human brain works to function with literacy, children who take music lessons usually have better listening skills than those who don’t. This, in turn, normally improves their ability to read, write and comprehend language.
Music Improves Emotional Development
Like almost every aspect of being human, the regulation and understanding of emotions is a skill that must be learned; any parent who’s patiently waited for a tantrum to finish in a grocery store knows this.
Kids who are exposed to music or study an instrument generally exhibit more empathy towards others. They also often understand their feelings better than other kids and know how to communicate their needs.
Music is also a great resource to help battle things like anxiety. It can bring on better emotions when negative ones take hold and give a much-needed break from stress.
Music Improves Coordination
When a child learns to play an instrument, they need to almost rewire their brains at lightning speed. They have to take symbols from a piece of paper and translate them into muscle movements that will eventually become audible sounds. This kind of physical feat is not unlike gymnastics. Because of this, kids who play musical instruments generally have better hand-eye coordination than those who don’t. In fact, the benefits of playing a musical instrument to coordination are almost the same as playing sports.
How Can You Improve Musical Learning in the Classroom?
Many teachers have heard or read about the benefits of incorporating more music education into the classroom but find it hard to figure out exactly how to do it. This is completely understandable. In the modern world, a lot is asked of educators. They are expected to deliver high-quality lessons and consistently learn while still making sure they are available for both students and parents. Adding a bit more music to the classroom can be difficult to comprehend, but it doesn’t have to be, thanks to EdTech.
The Importance of EdTech
EdTech is short for Educational Technology, and it’s not as futuristic as it sounds. It’s basically the process of using technology to help make the learning process more beneficial for all parties. EdTech doesn’t change the fundamentals of education; it seeks to make it more fruitful for the students. It’s basically finding a way to work smarter and adding it to childhood education.
One of the top benefits of EdTech is that it makes things possible that were never possible before. Not every single school has access to instruments, a music room, or even a full-time music teacher, but with EdTech, this can all be brought to the world of the students thanks to technology, and the best part of all is that it doesn’t need to be expensive.
How Apps Can Support Musical Development
One of the best ways that EdTech has been able to better support musical development in schools is through applications. A great example of this is Mussila.
Mussila is an EdTech company that has revolutionised the way music instruction can be taught to children. The first incredible product Mussila produced was the Mussila Music application.
Mussilla Music is an award-winning app that takes kids through an entire music curriculum without needing to buy instruments, find a music teacher, or even go to another room. All they need is a device and a connection to the internet.
Mussila’s award-winning approach uses a mantra of ‘Learn, Play, Create’ to help students get the most out of music education while keeping it fun. Mussila has versions for parents and schools, each with slightly different interfaces. The Mussila for schools application contains a teacher’s panel, which allows educators to track the progress of students, set work and even create lesson plans. The main benefit of Mussila for schools is that it’s a brilliantly cost-effective way of injecting music into the educational program.
Mussila for schools comes with support and is also available for a free trial, and to find out more, check it out today.
Music has been a part of most people’s lives from the day they entered this little blue planet. It has often been the metaphorical and literal soundtrack to some of the most formative experiences that people have. Music also definitely holds the keys to unlocking some incredible hidden potential for kids all over the world. So to give kids the best shot they can possibly have, it’s time to turn on some tunes, break out those instruments and have a good old jam.