Musical Kids

Music can help children’s cognitive, emotional, social and physical development. Here’s why music classes hit all the right notes for preschoolers.

As every parent knows, singing nursery rhymes and lullabies is a great way to engage and connect with an infant, long before language skills have developed. It may in fact form the very first social interaction between an infant and an adult.

Not surprisingly, research shows that preschoolers who engage in group music and movement activities readily bond with their fellow music-makers. They show greater group cohesion, cooperation and social skills than children who are not exposed to music in a group situation.

In a sense, any group activity creates self-regulation – the ability to control impulses, wait one’s turn and cooperate with others for the good of the group. Music is an especially effective platform for self-regulation as it requires careful listening, waiting one’s turn, and teamwork. Think of a song sung in rounds, or an orchestral performance at its most basic level, where different musicians play at different times, and follow the cues of each other.

The self-regulatory behaviour encouraged in group music and movement classes will stand a child in good stead in the classroom, in the playground and much later in life, in the workplace.

The acquisition of language and literacy begins with listening. Children’s innate and natural compulsion to make music forces them to put on their ‘listening ears’ and pay attention. The combination of listening and memorising can only stand them in good stead in school.

Besides encouraging children to be good listeners, music can build vocabulary simply by introducing
children to song lyrics. It can also foster a love of the playfulness of language, and aid in phonological and phonemic awareness. Songs that rhyme act as mnemonic devices that help children remember how words are pronounced.

Research shows that children exposed to music from an early age tend to perform better in maths tests. At its most basic level, maths involves determining ‘how many’ of something make up something else. In music, this ‘how many’ is the number of beats, notes or words in a song. Counting is an integral part of singing, dancing and playing an instrument, and fosters temporal awareness in children.

Music and movement classes encourage children to be at ease with their bodies and revel in the joy of movement. Be it clapping hands, banging on a homemade drum or playing a violin, all forms of musicmaking help develop fine motor skills, coordination and rhythm.

Dancing helps children develop spatial awareness, which is an integral part of understanding their relationship to their surroundings. It helps not only in terms of developing a consciousness of their own personal space but also in terms of being mindful of shared spaces. To avoid conflict, a child will consciously not tread on a dance partner’s toes or hit another child in the face with wild arm movements. This can only bode well for harmonious relationships with siblings at home and with classmates at school!

To ensure your child enjoys the full benefits of music, you can enrol him or her in music and movement classes. In addition, beyond the classroom, you can consciously make music a part of family life.

Encourage your child to listen to sounds, and look for rhythm everywhere – from the pitter-patter of light rain and the steady drumming of heavy rain to the swirling water of a washing machine or dishwasher. Turn your pots and pans into percussion instruments, and play a ‘bing-bang-bong’ tune while cooking. Express admiration, not annoyance, when he or she mimics the doorbell or the ring tone of your phone. Listen to music together, and encourage sing-alongs in the car.

Encourage your child to embrace music from an early age, and he or she will reap its lifelong rewards.

This article is taken from our My Alvernia Magazine Issue #34. Click here to read the issue on our website or on Magzter.