Music is something that closely associated with the changing of our moods, maybe even our soul and this has been the case since pre-historic man. It can make us thoughtful and sometimes sad, but best of all, it often makes us happy. The singing and playing of musical instruments were used in the days of Hippocrates right through until the Native Americans as a way of curing the sick. In the modern world, it only has a small place in medicine, but it does play a role in all of our lives.
Today, researchers, scholars and even doctors want to know more about the impact of music and how it affects us as individuals. Naturally, researchers have investigated different avenues with some revealing some incredible insights. For instance, babies have been found to remember the music that they have heard while in the womb with a study in the UK finding that babies remembered the lullaby “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”.
Music for Newborn Babies and Early Years Learning
There have been numerous studies that have produced results suggesting that exposing newborn babies and infants to music and singing helps build neural bridges. These neural bridges are required throughout life processing thoughts as well as information and events that we are exposed to. It is, therefore, little surprise that music is playing an increasingly important role in kindergarten activities to help stimulate early years learning.
Music has also been proven to stimulate alpha waves in the brain, thus creating an encapsulating feeling of calmness and wellbeing for those listening. In kindergartens, exposing children of a young age to music is believed to help develop their perception skills, which can impact on their language and literacy abilities along with enhancing their spatial awareness. Spatial awareness is closely linked to fine motor coordination as well as mathematics skills.
The Impact on the Brain
Although talking and singing to children is essential to their development, it is music that impacts on all subsystems within the brain. Therefore, it can provide more motivation as well as arousing an emotional response. There is a body of thought that believes that this helps to create bonds between individuals, creating peer groups and friendships that have a positive impact on our overall wellbeing, not only in our early years but throughout our life.
Dr Patricia Vardin, who chairs the Early Childhood Education Department at Manhattanville College in New York, said, “Making music with others gives children a wonderful feeling of belonging to the group. Children, who might have difficulty joining activities with others because they are shy, have limited English ability or special needs, can freely participate when it comes to music activity”.
Music as a Form of Therapy
Around the world, music is used as a form of therapy, with musicians frequently invited into hospitals to play for children. Doctors and nurses believe that it has a benefit on a child’s mood and is useful in both those suffering from emotional and physical trauma, just as it has done with troops after being involved in combat.
In modern medicine, music is used as a clinical intervention for many ailments. Singing, playing and listening to music has been proven to be beneficial for addressing several medical needs such as:
Helping children that are suffering from mood disorders
Those suffering from other neurological disorders
Assisting children to overcome bereavement and depression
The Use of Music Outside of Clinical Treatment
Fortunately, few children need to undergo clinical treatment at such a young age, but parents may want to incorporate music into their playtime with their child. Some research suggests that it is beneficial in helping to develop cognitive, emotional and physical responses in children, especially those that are three years of age or younger. If, as a parent, you are wondering what you can do to bring music into your child’s life, here are a few ideas:
You could provide some simple instruments such as bells, maracas, egg shakers or even spoons
Encourage your child to move their body and dance when listening to music
Incorporate songs with specific activities such as tidying and cleaning up
Using well-known children’s song to increase their vocabulary and improve their memory, for example, “5 little ducks” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”
When you are reading or telling a story to your child, you could including singing voices, which may help them to recognise that it is either nap-time or bedtime.
Music and Social Skills
As our children get slightly older, it is vital that they become more socially aware and learn to interact with other children as well as other adults. Music is a great way to improve your child’s social skills and an article by Merry Gordon suggested some excellent activities to help with this, such as:
Encourage your child to share instruments and to take turns either playing the instrument or copying the moves or sounds that the other makes and encourage laughter and play
This one is better with two children, get them to ask each other questions and reply with either “yes” or “no”, but they have to sing the answer or use an instrument
In a kindergarten situation, you could get a small group of children, four or five is ideal, to sit in a circle with each child given an instrument to play. The children should take it in turns being the leader and the one who determines the speed, rhythm and even volume of the group
Although there are many things that your child will take from using music during their formative years, it is perhaps the fact that it gives children focused attention from adults for a sustained period. Attention undoubtedly enhances a child’s development, so it is crucial that parents and caregivers join in with their child and not leave them to play alone. At this early age, interaction is essential and positive engagement will result in better self-perception and a more rewarding learning experience. The benefits of this will last a lifetime, so investing in music is certainly a worthwhile cause.