It’s no secret. We love music. Music can move us in profound ways. No question about it. With more than 35 years of experience creating music classes for toddlers, babies, big kids, and families as well as standards-aligned daycare and preschool curriculum, we know the lasting impact music education can have on a child. We also know, as music educator Cheryl Lavender puts it, “The fact that children can make beautiful music is less significant than the fact that music can make beautiful children.”
As if creating beautiful children wasn’t enough, research shows that music can even help prepare children for school. All of that makes us fall in love with music all over again! Here are just five ways music can help prepare children for school. (By the way, we use all of these ways…and more…in our developmentally appropriate and research-based music education programs in private studios, public schools, and childcare centers!)
5 Ways Music Prepares Children for School
- Learning to read musical notation uses a similar set of cognitive skills and pattern recognition also found in reading. In our preschool curriculum, ABC Music & Me, and in our Kindermusik classes, when children sing high or low based on whether an image is above or below a line or when children imitate a recorded sound by playing a C-A pattern on an instrument, children are learning the symbolic representation for sounds. Learning musical notation in this way mirrors how listening to and imitating spoken language evolves into reading.
- Music gives children many opportunities to practice active listening skills. Developing strong active listening skills prepares children for classroom learning, including language and literacy development. During the school years, children will spend an estimated 50 to 75 percent of classroom time listening to the teacher, to other students, or to media. When children intently listen for the sounds of a specific instrument in a song, use wood blocks to produce a Staccato sound, or move smoothly with scarves when they hear the music change from Staccato to Legato, children are practicing active listening.
- Music and movement helps children learn to tell their bodies what to do, when to stop, when to go, and when to move to another activity. Self-regulation is the ability to control one’s own thoughts, feelings, and actions and can be a key ingredient to successfully transitioning into Kindergarten. So, in our music classes when we play a “Stop & Go” game, participate in circle dances, transition from one activity to another, and even share instruments, children learn and practice self-regulation skills. Those same skills will help children pay attention in school and act and behave appropriately, even among the many distractions found in a typical classroom setting.
- Music leads children to experience patterns through movement, listening, and playing instruments. Rhythm patterns are combinations of long and short sounds and silences. In our preschool or toddler curriculum, educators may lead the class to “step, step, step, stop” or “ta, ta, ta, rest” with rhythm sticks. This helps children learn rhythm patterns (quarter note, quarter note, quarter note, rest), a basic musical concept. Plus, whole body involvement with patterning not only lays an early foundation for reading music but also for math and literacy.
- Through vocal play, children learn to form vowels and consonants, say words and phrases, and imitate rhythm and vocal inflection. Our music classes and daycare curriculum provide many vocal play opportunities through songs, chants, and carefully-crafted activities, such as mimicking the high sounds of birds or the low sounds of frogs. Vocal play using glissando also encourages the expressive qualities of children’s speaking and singing voice as well as vocal range.