Even if your child is not going to be the next Beethoven or Yo-Yo Ma, adding music and movement to your child’s routine can have a great impact on their development. And not just their musical development. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation.
Music making works both sides of the brain, so providing enriching music experiences can help strengthen language & literacy skills, motor skills, social-emotional skills and overall cognitive function. All of these areas assist in not only your child’s school readiness, but also their school success. It really lays a foundation for all further learning.
Let’s break down how music touches on each area of development for children.
Overall Brain Function: Cognitive Development
Our brains are made up of neural pathways which are developed and expanded to create more complex communication networks when we partake in making music. But what does that really mean? What skills do children gain?
When children learn new songs and rhymes they are working their memory and recall skills. Every time they explore and play with an instrument (or shaker, or bell, scarf, etc) they are learning about cause and effect. That’s true for babies, too! And when children are listening to a story or animal sounds, they work their focus and attentive listening.
Musical experiences can promote problem solving in the most fun way!
Language & Literacy Development
Pediatricians recommend music classes to develop language skills in young children. Singing, talking, and reading together assist in building your child’s databank of words. Studies have shown that the number of words your child enters school with helps determine how successful they will be.
Engaging your little one in singing helps to not only build vocabulary, but teaches them about conversation skills and impacts their phonemic awareness (phonemes are those small building blocks of sounds) & phonological awareness. Both skills are vital to reading success! By listening carefully, children notice the difference of sounds not only in words, but also in their own voices.
Movement is directly connected to learning. When we move, we are turning on our brains, welcoming learning!
Practicing locomotor movements (movements that move our body from one place to another), helps children improve their balance, steady beat, and coordination. And movement of all kinds strengthens muscles and keeps the cardiovascular system healthy.
When we challenge children to respond to a visual or aural cue (like stopping their body when the music stops) we provide a more multi-sensory experience. Children learn abstract concepts in a much more meaningful way.
Playing instruments works a child’s hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Now both gross- and fine-motor development is occurring!
From the earliest of age, we help babies learn social skills. Directly related to social development is emotional development. When a child can recognize and communicate their own emotions and can recognize they become better at recognizing and attending to others’ as well. Music experiences can provide opportunities for turn-taking, encouraging cooperation and developing a sense of belonging.
And of course there’s improvement in musical skills! When children are given opportunities for musical exploration and learning they can respond to music in their own unique way. They are learning how to identify and sense steady beat, as well as move to it. And with the introduction of a variety of sounds and instruments, they can determine the differences between those sounds, promoting an appreciation for all types of music.