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Music on the Brain

And now for something a little different, an article co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas on the importance of music and development, entitled, Music on the Brain.

A child’s senses are stimulated to the fullest when he or she grows up listening to music, singing songs, or dancing to music. A child’s early development is positively impacted through exposure to music, as it works to strength the neurological pathways between brain cells. An early introduction to music is crucial for jump-starting childhood learning processes whether it be in day care, at home, or homeschool. Incorporating music into early childhood education strengthens cognitive abilities like memory and spatial reasoning skills. More over, research has proven that creating an educational environment that engages the five senses, with particular attention to hearing can positively affect a child’s mind and physical development. The Nemours Foundation, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to the health of children, produced a report concluding that children who actively listen to, play, or perform music related activities excel in math and reading, have higher self-esteem, are more focused, and are more likely to play and explore with their peers.

Music makes the greatest educational and neurological impact on children when they actively experience it. Active listening can be defined as clapping, singing, tapping, or keeping the beat to music. Further more allowing a child to create his or her own music will prove to be priceless. Passive music participation (listening to music) is also beneficial to a child but does not work to engage and develop neurological pathways as deeply. If you would like your child to experience the benefits of music on early childhood education and development, begin simply.

1. Teach your child basic nursery rhymes and songs. The Itsy Bitsy Spider, This Little Piggy Went to Market, and The Wheels on The Bus are nursery rhymes that have accompanying hand motions. The synthesis of music and movement enhances a child’s memory by linking the memorization of words with hand motions. This method also works to strengthen a child’s ability to do more than one thing at a time.
2. An upset child can be comforted by music. Playing certain types of music for a sad or angry child provides stability and repetition as the child learns to cope with new feelings and emotions.
3. Use any available opportunity to share music with your child. Play music when riding in the car or before bedtime! Researchers say that tones and notes characteristic of jazz and classical music work best to stimulate neurological pathways.
4. Play music for your child then ask he or she to distinguish the different instruments present in the music. This game works to sharpen your child’s divided, shifted, focused, and sustained attention. Each type of attention is crucial to the healthy development and functioning of your child. Divided attention can be defined as performing two or more tasks at once. Shifted attention is moving back and forth between multiple tasks without forgetting the rules and instructions particular to each task. Focused attention is concentrating on one task. Sustained attention is concentrating on one specific task for a long period of time.

The benefits of playing music and encouraging participation in making music can be huge. The developmental, emotional, and educational affects yielded from exposing your child to and encouraging your child toward a musical life are invaluable.

Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the Atlanta day care facility, a member of the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose Schools (located in 16 states throughout the U.S.) and part of the network of day care preschools delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum.

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