Research on how music can nurture and help your child learn, has been going on for decades. When researchers delve on the Mozart Effect – the theory that listening to Mozart’s music can temporarily improve performance, and perhaps even IQ – became popularized in the late 1950s, parents everywhere began to try and expose their children to more classical music.
The theory became so popular that Georgia’s governor even proposed a budget allowing for every baby born in Georgia to receive a classical music CD. Most parents will also use classical pieces from Mozart, Tchaikovsky or Chopin to play to their unborn child, hoping to stimulate the brain development of their unborn child. Top toy makers also producced toys that play Mozart music for babies and toddlers.
Although critics’ verdicts on the Mozart Effect have been controversial as with most theories, it it not that controversial after all because it is being substantiated and supported by a strong body of evidence . It is the factual that ongoing music education does help children in many ways, including overall academic performance. A Canadian research group from McMaster University compared two groups of six children between the ages of 4 and 6; one group took Suzuki music lessons and the other had no musical instruction.
The results, which were published in the online journal Brain on September 20, 2006, showed that the children who received musical instruction excelled above their peers in memory skills as well as ‘non-musical’ abilities such as literacy, mathematics and even IQ. This is because when you play a piece of music, you have to remember the keys, notes and the score. Furthermore musicians hone their skills by practising a great deal to perfect their playing skills and these practices will jog the memory cells, providing memory boost to children.
Formal music instruction requires focus, discipline and determination and these excellent qualities are often being transferred into other areas of the student’s life. This has been noted by Brigid Finucane, an Early Childhood Music Instructor at the Merit School of Music in Chicago. She also witnessed that beat and rhythms are key components in music. Children who can maintain a steady beat have a greater fluency in their reading. The music that we sing provides vocabulary enrichment, teaches tenses and plurals and the use of poetic language and enhances language abilities of the children. Through music we also learn about culture, creativity and also emotions.
Music also help toddlers comprehend concepts like high and low, fast and slow, and start and stop. Reading music notes from left to right reinforces their learning of reading words from left to right in a book. Counting out music beats and keeping a steady beat reinforces the role of numbers and helps a child better understand their first math concepts.
Music is not confined to early childhood. Older school going children, who have been exposed to music are also able to build a greater self-esteem, concentration and coordination. And the longer music instruction lasts, the greater the benefits. I am sure it would be beneficial for preschoolers and primary school children to have music education, on top of their regular English, Math and Science education. We should see a vast improvement in concentration, memory and maths skills.
Now we know that music movements has incredible effects on children growing up because music helps children to focus, achieve better results in school, improve self-esteem and allow them mingle to well with others, the next question would be “How should I introduce music to my child”? There are a few steps which I will talk about them now.
Step 1: Introduce your child to auditory music from a young age. You can either sing to your child or play a musical CD and sing along to the CD together with your child. Music and movement are fun, enjoyable and allows parents to also bond with their children.
Step 2: Play different styles of music to your child and at the same time encourage your child to dance to the beat of the music. You can play the music at home or in the car whilst driving with your kid, but please pay attention to traffic!
Step 3: Demonstrate how to make music with objects around the house. Tap a rhythm on the side of the pan before you cook dinner or open and close the door to a certain beat.
Step 4: Make up songs about the situation that you share with your child or about things in the environment. He or she will know that singing is a natural thing and “I don’t have to be a professional singer and song-writer to create music!” This is one of the steps which I do very often with Caden and he usually follows and sing along.