It is interesting to observe how fast children learn when they are young! Research supports our observations that learning experiences must begin in the early years from birth to age five. This is a critical time in a child’s musical and cognitive development. The benefits of music and movement in the preschool years have been well documented. Research studies show that music enhances brain development and academic learning. Music affects many areas of brain function and neurological development. Many levels of neurological readiness exist in children, and music is a powerful enhancer at each stage of neurological development. The earlier a child is exposed to music and movement, the better. Research findings include:
• Children who receive early music training score higher on standardized tests.
• The use of music during learning can increase a child’s IQ.
• Young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year compared to children who do not receive musical training.
• There is a link between spatial reasoning and participation in music and movement activities.
Preschool children are at the beginning of the learning spectrum. Parents and teachers set learning patterns and attitudes and introduce children to learning by providing the first exposures. These exposures should encourage the joy of participating in music and making music. Joyful experimentation will result in the growth of musical skills and lay the foundation for future music learning as well as for future academic success.
As a music educator for 40 years, I have seen the positive results of music education for children. At Silly Bus performances, I enjoy seeing the positive reactions of the children to the songs and interactive presentations as they learn a variety of educational skills and concepts. The music and shows have great appeal for children.
As children make music, listen to music, and move to music through a variety of experiences, they develop creative abilities, attention spans, motor and rhythmic coordination, socialization skills, mental agility, and the ability to process aural information. It is very important for parents to expose their children to music and to encourage participation in music and movement activities informally at home and in more organized music education settings.
Movement is innate in children and provides the basis of everything young children learn. It contributes to the growth and coordination of the large and small body muscles. In addition, movement is an important nonverbal learning tool. Preschoolers understand much that they cannot yet put into words. They demonstrate their understandings through gestures and other movements. As we observe the child’s movement, we gain insight into what the child is thinking and understanding.
Songs help us to learn as well as express ourselves in a musical manner. Appropriate songs for preschool children include nursery rhymes, finger plays, educational songs that incorporate counting, letters of the alphabet, animals and animal sounds, colors, etc. Songs and recorded music should promote activities such as walking, jumping, dancing, and marching. Clapping or patting the steady pulse or beat of rhymes, songs, chants, and recorded music is a valuable activity and preparation for future music ensemble participation. The ability to perform a steady beat while singing, speaking, or listening to music aids the child’s success in reading and other academic areas. Music education is an important aspect for a child’s learning process in life. From simple beginning experiences the child is guided to more sophisticated musical and creative activities.
While music is a viable stand alone educational program, music also reinforces and enhances the learning of other skills and benefits learning in many ways. This is especially true for reading and language arts. Music helps children focus on the structure of sounds which is an important aspect in language development and literacy skills. Having a musical vocabulary of melodic patterns and phrases directly transfers to the ability to develop a spoken vocabulary of patterns and sounds—thereby aiding the child’s success in reading and communicating.
It has long been believed that brains change as a result of music learning. Researchers in neuroscience, utilizing recent advances in MRI technology, are actually studying the human brain in the act of creating or listening to music. And what they are finding is remarkable.
Perhaps the most exciting news is the evidence that music can actually change the physical structure of the brain – a fact that has critical implications for both education and medicine. Music may even be a major key to unlocking the mystery of how the brain actually learns.