How Music Helps Every Child’s Development

Suggested Reading: “Music Makes Your Child Smarter” by Philip Sheppard

Music and your child

How can music affect intelligence?

Intelligence is the capacity to learn and understand new things and making music helps that process. It helps with language and social skills, encourages creativity and has a positive effect on the mental, physical, and social aspects of childhood development.

Can music shape the way a child's brain functions and grows?

Music affects the way the brain develops: Adult musicians' brains show clear differences from those of non-musicians, particularly in areas relating to listening, language, and the connection between the two sides of the brain.

How can music affect my child's mental and physical coordination?

Learning to play music improves fine motor control and coordination, provides a framework for learning new skills, and helps to reinforce 'inhibitory controls.' These controls help children gain mastery over their spontaneous reactions. Many forms of musicianship rely on very advanced coordination between the brain and the body.

Does music improve children's memory skills?

Musicians use many forms of memory when practicing, performing, improvising, and composing. Music can be an incredible vehicle for retaining vast amounts of associated information. We are genetically predisposed to remember long, complicated musical sequences in a much more efficient manner than that we employ to recall text.

Does music help children's language skills?

Music is the language we are born with to enable us to learn how to communicate and eventually speak in a mother tongue. The very essence of musical phrasing is inextricably linked to the patterns of pre-speech and common speech. These patterns form the foundation for nearly all conscious language acquisition. There are strong similarities between the way our brains process speech and the way we interpret music.

How can music help children understand math and science?

Music, by its very nature, is an expressive combination of mathematics and s. Because music is built from components that can be described in mathematical terms, it can be an excellent tool for teaching mathematical concepts. Music helps us to understand and use ideas that could otherwise remain highly abstract. Some of the greatest mathematical minds have helped us understand how musical elements are constructed; conversely, composers created incredible works entirely from mathematical constructions. The spatial reasoning skills advanced by instrumental training can help process complex algebraic functions.

You are a Musical!

How many times have you heard someone say, 'I'm not musical, "I'm tone deaf,' or 'I don't have a musical bone in my body? The truth is that we are all born with the capacity to make music: We all have musical instincts and skills, and all we need is a little encouragement. To help your child pursue musical activities, it's vital that you come to recognize your own musical ability — and where possible, draw it out, develop, and enjoy it.

There are certainly adults who haven't explored even a fraction of their musical potential, but that doesn't mean they're unmusical; it means they haven't seen a glimpse of the 'musician inside’.

Be inspiring!

There are many inspirational teachers. They encourage children's love of music while refining their technical skills. Unfortunately there are also many teachers who teach by rote, and who are not in love with what they are doing. Music teaching should be imaginative, challenging, and most of all, creative.

The researchers found that children who maintained interest in playing an instrument had:

In other words, creative music-making combined with good parental support will help your child retain and nurture their love of music. By encouraging your child's musicality, you will be nurturing the development of their intelligence too. You can be an inspiring musical influence by encouraging creative play, by building music into everyday routines, by helping technical aptitude, and by framing musical activities in an imaginative manner.

For a parent, the biggest challenge is in guiding your child from aptitude to achievement - without pushing too hard and removing all the fun from the process.

Player or Listener?

The majority of the modern music industry is focused on the reception of music: We're encouraged to be music consumers. That's not a bad thing, but it's easy to lose sight of music's origins as a social activity. Of course you can derive huge pleasure from listening actively, but that's no match for the experience of actually making music.

Can playing music make my child smarter?

Yes. Studying an instrument involves mastering a wide range of skills and it requires concentration and regular study, comprehension, and communication of sophisticated concepts. Studying an instrument also simulates fine motor control, breathing, and memory and often requires regular one-on-one coaching or a very low teacher-to-pupil ratio that is rarely experienced in normal schooling.

And that's not all. Active music-making aids mental development and Learning, and it can even encourage a growing brain to physically alter its very structure. It builds essential social skills, helps people of all ages define their own identity, creates associations between groups, and helps to forge links between people. It creates great feelings of self-worth and can even have beneficial effects on health. In the next few chapters we'll explore these benefits in detail.

How music affects intelligence

By the time they're two years old, most children have developed their own unique combinations of preferences that stimulate and interest them. My oldest daughter, who is five, loves sport, writing stories about animals, and playing with other children. I would say she is bodily-kinesthetic, naturalist, linguistic, interpersonal. This is obviously very long-winded and rather general, and you'll probably pick up on the fact that I didn't include 'musical.' This is simply because I tend to take this for granted in children. (I've never met a child I could describe as unmusical!)

Making music can assist in the development of all of these so-called 'intelligences' by having a positive effect upon:

The musician’s brain

Musicians process musical information in a very different way than other people. Essentially, their brains break down sounds in a more analytical way than non-musicians.

The musician is constantly adjusting decisions on tempo, tone, style, rhythm, phrasing, and feeling— training the brain to become incredibly good at organizing and conducting numerous activities at once. Dedicated practice of this orchestration can have a great payoff for lifelong attentional skills, intelligence, and an ability for self-knowledge and expression.

As we've discovered, it appears that music can affect the way the brain grows, develops, and organizes itself— and it has an effect from a very young age. There is clear evidence of the positive effect playing music has upon the developing brain, and it seems that there are key periods during which the brain is at its most malleable and impressionable.

How music can develop memory

Memory skills are essential for every musician. In addition to recalling pieces of music or remembering the actions involved in playing an instrument, music also involves many forms of intellectual and emotional memory. Memory is the key to learning: We cope with growing up and the challenges of everyday life by remembering our experiences and using those memories to inform our future decisions and processes. By stimulating the development of music-based learning skills, we help improve future learning ability.

Music is always our initial system communication and prepares the foundation for the building of linguistic skills, speech, comprehension, expression, and vocabularies.

Music plays a critical role in the foundations of communication and expression and therefore is critical to our survival and future intelligence.

The correlation between musical training and math proficiency may e associated with improved working memory performance and an increased abstract representation of numerical quantities.

Music and mathematics

Studying musical forms can help children understand complicated mathematical and scientific concepts; conversely, studying mathematics can help the comprehension of the physical properties of musical elements as pitch and overtones. There are some incredible correlations to be between musical structures, patterns found in the natural world and complex mathematical phenomena.

In 1999 in experiment for Neurological Research magazine set out to research the link between active music study and mathematical learning. Students who had studied fractions using a music-based model, involving divisions of the beat scored 100 percent higher than their colleagues who were taught in the conventional manner. It appears that by explaining the mathematical through a musical model, the students could comprehend the through physically feeling and hearing the results of such divisions.

Music can help the kind of reasoning skills used for processing equations and equations and long functions, as it requires thinking in space and time.

Scientists have been able to provide compelling evidence to prove instruction in instruments is an excellent way of stimulating general spatial abilities in young children. Many of the studies have focused on keyboard instruments.

Learning an instrument can help enhance spatial-temporal abilities in children. Listening to music often does not produce the same effects, despite early evidence to the contrary. Spatial-temporal abilities are critical for being able to sequence information and ideas, for advancing analysis and reasoning, building higher mathematical skills, refining visual interpretation, and comprehension, as well as helping with planning skills.

A keyboard instrument, such as the piano, presents a spectrum of pitches in a particular prescribed layout. To the developing child, this offers a framework upon which to hang an incredibly complex concept — the division of pitch.! Most Western music uses a diatonic division of pitch.

Music can help build confidence

Music helps children to interact with others at ages when they may naturally shy. It can have dramatic effects on self-esteem by enforcing a of personal identity, and it can be used as a tool for building leadership by putting children in positions of creative control and giving them reasons to play, negotiate, and work together.

Music helps children to find their place in the world, to bond with their family, and become entrained in their culture.

The importance of instruments

There is one form of musical activity that, by its very nature, combines many forms of mental and physical development. That activity is, of course, playing instrument. I believe that playing an instrument generates so many coordination challenges and so many neurological stimuli that it should be an essential part of any child's development.

Learning an instrument can constitute one of the transitions from music in home to skills learnt and mastered outside the home environment. Even if you are a skilled instrumentalist yourself, it can be far more effective to have someone else teach your children an instrument. I believe the serious application that is required for the technical mastery of an instrument can detract from the environment of creative play one may have established in the home.

Long-term effects of music on the mind

Music appears to be able to sharpen young minds, making children quick-witted and mentally coordinated. It also appears to have longer-term mental benefits. Research carried out at Manchester University found that musicians are statistically far less likely to suffer senile dementia than other people.

Music can have powerful effects on the health of the body, and therefore has an effect on general mental and physical wellbeing.