By Brigid Henry
No doubt you have heard of the many benefits of music for children. The list is long, ranging from helping children with language, math, concentration, memory and social skills!
According to current brain development research, music can enhance brain function in children. Playing an instrument, singing or listening to music stimulates the brain. This leads to improved brain structure with the formation of new neural connections.
Studies also show that young children’s involvement in musical activities improves their speech development. Learning music helps to develop the left side of the brain, which is related to language and reasoning. It helps with sound recognition, teaches rhythm and rhyme, and can help children remember information.
In addition, music can help with the development of math skills. By listening to musical beats, your child can get a sense of basic fractions and recognize patterns. Children who study music have improved spatial intelligence and improved ability to form mental pictures of objects.
Music can help with coordination, too. Playing and dancing to music helps children develop their motor skills. They must use their ears and eyes as well as large and small muscles all at the same time. This helps the body and mind work together.
Perhaps most importantly, music builds community. Connecting with the elders through music is something that is natural and creates a special bond. For the seniors, the ability to recall songs from their childhood is profound.
The list of the benefits of music goes on and on! In the classroom, it works almost magically to signal a transition or new direction. It is amazing to see the difference in children’s attention in response to an instruction spoken versus sung. I am proof that you don’t have to have a great voice for this to happen; children are very forgiving and respond well regardless!
A favorite activity in our classroom is painting with watercolors to classical music. The music is calming and relaxing. It can be used to relieve stress. We are always talking about and helping children learn the words to recognize and describe how they are feeling, and using music helps us do that. We give the children tools such as breathing techniques for dealing with strong emotions. We practice deep breathing with the use of a musical chime.
Music can also lift the mood dramatically. A highlight of our week is “Music with Gregg.” Gregg is a volunteer grandpa who comes to Inver Glen weekly to lead interactive music sessions. The children often ask, “Is it is a Gregg day?!” Gregg entertains and engages us with various guitars, banjos and songs. The expressions on the children’s faces as they participate clearly show their joyful engagement. Children who may otherwise be somewhat reserved lose themselves in the fun. When they recognize a song from previous weeks and are able to sing along, they are so enthusiastic and proud! When Gregg offers an instrument such as bells for them to use, the children are all in. One of the first times that we had music with Gregg, he allowed each child to come up and strum his guitar with his guitar pick at the end of his session. This has become a ritual; the children did not forget about this the next time Gregg came, and they eagerly line up for their turn every time!
A day at All Seasons Preschool is filled with all kinds of musical experiences. It gives children a way to express themselves and unleashes their creativity. The proof is in their laughter and smiles!