Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Music Education in Early Childhood

5 Reasons to Teach Music to Young Children 

'Music education begins nine months before the birth of the mother'  - Zoltán Kodály 

Extra-curricular activities, like music class, tend to be reserved for school-aged children.  However, research has shown that the benefits of music education can be shared by children of all ages.  Establishing a home where music is heard and music education is valued can benefit even the youngest of children.  Here are the 5 main reasons I teach music to my children:

My Listening Ears

1. Improved Listening Skills
Music is an aural art; it stresses listening skills. It's no secret that young children love repetition.  My two-year old son asks for the same bedtime song over and over again.  This repetition helps strengthen his listening skills, which I often test by changing a word or phrase or the melody.  Children who participate in music education learn to be good listeners. They are more aware of the various sounds in the environment, and pay better attention in school.  Northwestern University researchers recently showed an association between musical training and better listening skills.  Adults who studied music as a child (even if just for a few years) had enhanced brain responses to complex sounds and were more effective at hearing the fundamental frequency (crucial for speech and music perception and enables recognition of sounds in complex and noisy hearing settings).  

2. Encouraging Language Development
From the instant children are born (and even while still in the womb), they begin decoding sounds and words.  Music education enhances these natural abilities.  Dr. Kyle Pruitt, clinical professor of child psychology at the Yale School of Medicine (and a practicing musician) said "The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music.  Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent."

3. A Harmonious Child
In music class we define harmony as: two or more things played at the same time that sound good together. As we study and participate in music, our awareness of others grows as does a sense of appreciation.  This is especially true as we participate in music ensembles.  Music education helps us become more sensitive and compassionate.  Self-esteem thrives, and we are more able to benefit others and society in general.

4.  We Can Do Hard Things!
One of the greatest lessons children can learn is how to stick-to-it when things get tough.  Learning to play an instrument (or sing) is not easy!  Through music study, students learn the value of sustained effort to achieve excellence.  As children participate in music education (and especially performance), they learn at a young age to overcome the anxiety and fear that naturally occur in everyday life.  The ability to overcome obstacles is valuable in all areas of life.

5. Maximize Cognitive Potential
Our brains are not fully developed at birth, but the experiences we provide thereafter improve the connections and neurological pathways.  Studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically alters the development of the brain.  Music requires both sides of the brain to work together simultaneously, increasing the connective pathways between these two hemispheres. So in essence, music improves the way your brain works, offering maximum cognitive potential.  Linking new information to a melody can also help imprint information on young minds (how did you learn your ABCs?) Music education is actually a means to achieving brighter, happier, more successful students.