From Math to Memory: Benefits of Music in Children
Plato believed that “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything,” yet less than 50% of kids in 4th to 6th can’t walk to the steady beat of music. In a competitive world we are often torn between taking our kids for baseball, swimming or piano lessons. If you are considering introducing your child to music, here is some inspiration.
Why Rhythm Matters?
Kids who can keep a steady beat also have better physical coordination, pay attention for longer periods of time, do better in kindergarten and on achievement tests. These skills were found to be more common in children who participated in music and dance classes.
Music is mathematical and methodical. Kids that learn music are better readers and more successful in math. By understanding beat, rhythm, and scales, children are also learning how to divide, create fractions, and recognize patterns. It improves a child’s ability to concentrate, understand space and distance, and control their actions. Basically, music is a fun early foundation for learning math.
Kids should be introduced to rhythm with their bodies (e.g. by drumming or by tapping rhythm sticks) before they can hear rhythm in their heads.
Percussion instruments help young children develop coordination and motor skills; they require movement of the hands, arms, and feet.
Music is a way for kids to be introduced to their inner voice. When they sing songs like Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and then hum their way through it, they have to hear the words in their head to remember what body part to move next. This later helps them remember things like directions from a teacher.
As kids get older and start reciting songs, their short-term memory and eventually their long-term memory will improve.
Children who took keyboard or voice lessons had greater increase in IQ than those who took drama lessons or no lessons.
Play an Instrument
Musical instrument classes teach children basic physics. Plucking the strings on a guitar or violin introduces our children to harmonic and sympathetic vibrations.
Playing string and keyboard instruments demand different actions from your right and left hands simultaneously. This helps develop ambidexterity. Improving coordination and timing can prepare children for other interests, like dance and sports.
Two years of music training improves the brain’s ability to distinguish similar sounding syllables, which is an important skill for reading.
Beyond the Math and Memory
The process of learning an instrument teaches children about delayed gratification. Kids have to persevere through hours, months, and sometimes years of practice before they reach certain goals, such as performing with an orchestra or memorizing a solo piece. It is probably one of the best ways to teach them patience and discipline.
Cultural Exposure through Music
Playing instruments such as the bongo and timbale introduces children to African and Cuban styles of music, while playing the violin exposes children to music popularized by German and Austrian musicians. Kids can discover how music plays an important role in other cultures. Music in children encourages them to explore new worlds and traditions.
How to introduce kids of different ages to music.
Toddlers and Preschoolers are all about fun and exploration with sound; everything else is secondary. When considering musical options, think about a child’s skills and abilities. If you don’t think they are ready for an instrument or if they don’t seem to be enjoying themselves, wait and reconsider the idea at a later time. If your child is ready to have fun with music, consider instruments that may best fit their temperament. Percussion instruments like drums, tambourines, xylophones and rattles; even the body are best suited for this group.
For Early Elementary kids, kindergarten through 3rd grade, music should be more about fun and less about rules. The children in this age group would do well learning in a more organized manner due to their bigger body size and better ability to follow directions. In addition to the above instruments consider the violin, piano, recorder, viola and cello (Since the cello is a larger instrument, your child may need assistance carrying it and setting it up).
Later Elementary and Beyond (starting 4th and 5th grade) children should have the strength and ability to learn most instruments. However, there is more to consider when choosing the ideal instrumental fit. The child’s personal musical preferences, their body size, special health issues and their musical aptitude should be considered when choosing an instrument. Some popular instruments most children pick up easily at this age are the guitar, clarinet, flute and trumpet.
So Why Learn Music?
Along with enjoying time to bounce to the beats, children benefit from long term development. Not all who learn music will do it professionally. Yet in a fast paced and busy world, music helps a child slow down, listen to one’s inner self, get smarter and at the same time learn a skill that brings family and community together.