Studies in neuroscience show that music can enhance brain function in children. Musical activities (such as playing an instrument, singing or just listening to music) stimulate the brain, and this brain workout leads to improved brain structure with the formation of new neural connections.
Studies also show that young children who participate in music classes have improved speech development and learn to read more easily. Learning music helps to develop the left side of the brain (related to language and reasoning), assists with sound recognition, and teaches rhythm and rhyme. Songs can also help children remember information (just think of the Alphabet song!).
Music can help with the development of maths skills. By listening to musical beats your child can learn basic fractions, pattern-recognition and problem solving. Children who study music also have improved spatial intelligence and ability to form mental pictures of objects – skills that are important for more advanced mathematics.
Memory, attention and concentration
Recent studies have shown that people who are musically trained have better working memory skills, helping them to remember things even while their minds are busy with other matters – important aspects of mental arithmetic and reading comprehension. Learning music also requires significant levels of concentration, training children to focus their attention for sustained periods.
Just like playing sports, playing and dancing to music helps children develop their motor skills. Making music involves more than the voice or fingers; you also use ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, all at the same time. This helps the body and the mind work together.
Achievement and discipline
Learning music teaches children to work towards short-term goals, develop routine and practice self-discipline. Setting aside regular time for practice develops commitment and patience. Mastering a new piece of music leads to a sense of pride and achievement, and helps children to learn the value of self-discipline.
Making music with other people (like in a band or choir) improves children’s social and emotional skills. They learn to work together as a team and develop their sense of empathy with others. Researchers have found that when children play music together – from simple rhythms to larger group performances – they are better able to tune into other people’s emotions.
The joy of music
Music can give children a way to express themselves, to unleash their creativity, to be inspired and uplifted, to relax, and to relieve stress and tension. Just think about listening to a beautiful piece of classical music, singing along to a favourite song with friends, or dancing to a great song on the radio – music can make your heart sing!
Music for life
With all these benefits, try to expose your child to music as much as possible – listen to music together, sing songs, play rhythm games, go to concerts or make your own instruments together. Your local library, community centre or music society may offer music programs for kids. If your child wants to learn a musical instrument, your options may include a school music program, private music teachers, and group music activities such as choirs, recorder groups and bands.