“Good morning to you, good morning to you…” It’s Tuesday morning at Parkside Early Learning Centre and a group of bright-faced children sit mesmerised as Miss Carolin sings the welcome song in their music class. We all know that music can soothe a child. But music also enhances intelligence, coordination, emotional expression, creativity, and socialisation skills.
There’s no guarantee your child will be composing symphonies by age 6 but music is almost a developmental necessity in early childhood.
Music Enhances Intelligence
At birth, a child’s brain is in an unfinished state. Music can play a critical role in the process of “wiring” a young child’s brain. With older children, music can create a good study environment and help a child learn information more efficiently. But it’s not simply a matter of playing music in the background to make children smarter. In fact active participation of children and their caregivers, especially when children are young, is very important. In other words, warm up those vocal chords and start crooning! Music combined with movement further improves brain development as it creates new brain connections and crosses the midline of the body which is known to create bilateral integration skills.
With young children, singing, chanting and rhythmic play can increase your child’s vocabulary. Parkside encourages parents to make up songs about everyday activities like nappy changes and baths, turning a boring chore into a fun “sound break.” As a child gets older, encourage her to invent her own songs.
If you can’t carry a tune in a basket, don’t despair. If you don’t think you’re a good singer, sing louder!
Music Helps Motor Development and Coordination
In young children, music helps pattern the movement of the body. 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.
Unfortunately, with more children spending time in front of television or computer screens, motor skills may not keep up with cognitive development. In fact, many children today are unable to keep a steady beat. These kids may be less likely to be successful on sports teams.
We recommend bouncing, swaying, clapping, and dancing with your child from a very early age. Make a habit of creating musical moments, moving joyfully to your own drumming and chants, and playing active games with your child whenever you catch him on his feet. Let him experiment with objects that make sound – rattles, drums, spoons that can be banged against pans. (Earplugs optional.)
Music Increases Emotional Awareness
Everyone has experienced the emotional surge triggered by a meaningful song. Music can give children a place for their emotions. When there is fear, music can be soothing. When there is tension or stress, music can calm a child. And as a child learns to play an instrument, music becomes a powerful vehicle for self-expression.
Music Strengthens Social Skills
The key skill in interacting well with others is listening. By making your child aware of the relation between sound and emotion in music, he can begin to also discern others’ emotional state from their speech.
All children can benefit from group musical experiences to increase confidence and self-esteem as well as enjoy a sense of community.
Music Aids in Relaxation and Stress Reduction
In stressful situations, such as a hospital stay or school-related anxiety, music has been shown to decrease heart rate, breathing, and lower stress hormones. Stress obstructs learning. By playing 10 minutes of classical music, parents and teachers can help children clear their minds for productive learning and studying.
Music Enhances Creativity
Music lends itself to many creative activities. Stimulate creative thought in young children by singing a familiar song and leaving out the last word of each line. Your child will delight in inventing a new ending. Twinkle, twinkle little… tomato?
With older children, select a favourite piece and discuss what pictures, colours, or stories the music brings to mind for each of you. Then play the selection again, encouraging your child to act out these images with his body.
Nurturing Your Budding Musician
We recommend that all children should be actively involved with music. Learning an instrument or singing in a group has been linked in many studies with improved spatial coordination, creativity, math skills, and even ability to learn a foreign language.
Musical involvement may not be playing the piano or violin for every child. It may be experimentation with movement. It may be simple percussion instruments. It may be learning to sing. Up to age 5, Parkside recommends group music classes such as mainly music, which take place all over the country or our very own sessions on a Tuesday. The intent of this is not to make children symphony performers. It is to train the ear, eye and hand to coordinate.
At Parkside we hope the future generations can enjoy not only the educational benefits but also the exhilaration that comes from listening to and creating music.
Music is a wonderful mind weaver, and we have many opportunities in the early years to help orchestrate and harmonize the brains of our children with quality experiences.