If your toddler loves banging pots and pans, your middle schooler is still singing all the songs from Frozen or your tween has his ear buds in 24/7, you may have a music lover on your hands. Which is great news, because music is incredibly beneficial for children! Beyond learning how to play an instrument or sing, children who receive music education develop a broad skill set that can enhance their lives for many years, in many ways.
What are these benefits? “Let’s start at the beginning/ A very good place to start…” – Maria, The Sound of Music.
Learning to read music, play an instrument or sing on pitch isn’t easy – and mastering these skills builds confidence and self-esteem. Pair these abilities with performing in front of people and you provide kids with an opportunity to show off what they can do – to resounding applause!
says Jim McCutcheon, owner of McCutcheon Music. “In school band and orchestra programs, it can be an opportunity to develop team and leadership skills as well.”
In a 2012 year-long study, researchers from the University of Cambridge, England found that school-aged children who participated in group music education classes which taught ensemble and rhythmic work, were more capable of accurately recognizing another’s emotional state. Researchers discovered that specific musical activities like “imitation” where children were asked to imitate another musician or musical piece increased the child’s ability to recognize another’s “mental state.”
“Studying music results in creating something new,” says Susan Bucher of Bella Music.
“They don’t have to be a composer and write their own music to create something. Each musician’s interpretation and the way they perform something is in itself a creation.”
Music is an excellent means of teaching kids about discipline and delayed gratification. Before a student can tie a few notes together to play a song, he must first learn the notes and how to create them. Early on, students can see the benefit of practicing at home before their lessons. Self-discipline is necessary to be able to move forward and progress. It’s easy for kids to make the connection that hard work and practice will result in learning to play a musical piece successfully.
A study done at the University of Kansas in 2007 found that elementary schools with superior music programs had students who performed 22% higher in English and 20% higher in math on standardized tests.
“When children start studying music before the age of seven, they develop bigger vocabularies, a better sense of grammar and a higher verbal IQ. These advantages benefit both the development of their mother tongue and the learning of foreign languages. During these crucial years, the brain is at its sensitive development phase, with 95% of the brain’s growth occurring now. Music training started during this period also boosts the brain’s ability to process subtle differences between sounds and assist in the pronunciation of languages – and this gift lasts for life, as it has been found that adults who had musical training in childhood still retain this ability to learn foreign languages quicker and more efficiently than adults who did not have early childhood music training.” From the book The Music Miracle: The Scientific Secret to Unlocking Your Child’s Full Potential by Liisa Henriksson Macaulay.
Spatial-temporal and math skills
If you have one tired parent, one algebra assignment and one musical child, how late will you be up working on homework? Not long probably! Research has found a link between students’ understanding of music and their ability to visualize elements that should go together (spatial-temporal skills). This is the same ability that is needed to successfully complete those tricky word problems found in math classes. Spatial-temporal skills are also fundamental in architecture, engineering, art and especially information technology.
In order to make music, a child must learn to simultaneously do several things at once. For example, a trumpet player must control his breathing, manipulate the airstream with his tongue to start and stop notes, use his fingers to press valve buttons, use his eyes to read the music and listen to the notes that he and others create. As the student progresses, so too will his motor skills.
Music education can begin to benefit a child as early as the first month of life. With such far-reaching effects, encouraging the music-makers in your household to express themselves in this way can be one of the best parenting decisions you ever make!