I love giving instruments as gifts to younger children – the parents often roll their eyes at me, with a half-hearted ‘thanks’ as they imagine the “noise” that will soon descend upon them… But hey, it will keep the kids busy, and even busier and more fun, if you can join in with your own instrument or vocals!
Kids in general, no matter their age, love having a go at making music (and noise); it is a quality way for them to ‘play around’ with aspects such as rhythm, pitch (high-low sounds) and volume (loud-soft).
So much research has been conducted in the last ten years, looking in to music education and the benefits it can have on child development. This is not so much about listening to music, but rather having your child learn how to play an instrument or to sing.
Brain scans of individuals with and without musical training look different; as music education produces bigger and better functioning brains. This is due to the “full brain workout” that comes with making music! “Musical activity involves nearly every region of the brain that we know about…” (Daniel Levitin, This is Your Brain on Music)
There are many exciting findings, which give motivation to have your child learn an instrument or sing. Here are some proven benefits, just to name a few;
- Improved language abilities – music training has shown children to learn words faster, develop a wider vocabulary and learn to how to read sooner.
- Increased attention span and focus – regular music education actively trains the brain, and research highlights improvements in the classroom; with listening, processing information and concentration.
- Greater creativity – both the left and right sides of the brain communicate at the same time during music making, which means the brain can more efficiently process information from the senses; hearing, touch and sight.
- Better working memory – this helps us remember things, and is crucial for tasks like arithmetic and reading comprehension.
- Increased empathy and emotional intelligence – as there is better ability to interpret and understand people’s emotion, and also listen to the subtle changes in their speech/ voice that show their underlying emotions.
- Stronger self-confidence
Other studies have found a strong link between learning to play an instrument and academic success. Dr Sylvain Moreno, from the Rotman Research Institute, reports recent breakthrough evidence that shows “learning to play an instrument leads to changes in a child’s brain that make it more likely they will reach their full cognitive and academic potential”.
The added bonus musicians experience is greater social awareness, as they make music with others eg a choir, an orchestra, quartet, or a band, they are learning to collaborate with others, share their attention and co-operate. Invaluable skills for both personal and professional life!
Ultimately, whether it is the violin, trumpet, drums or your own voice box; that ability to communicate oneself through music is an amazing, healthy escape, and fantastic form of expression.
So, get down with the funky beat, and enjoy creating it too!
An Overview of Current Neuroscience Research – The Benefits of Music Education (The Royal Conservatory, March/ April 2014)
This article has also been published in Shire’s Children magazine (June 2015 issue) www.shireschildren.com.au