4 Ways Music Helps Your Brain

It’s not a coincidence that some of the most brilliant minds in history were (and are!) also musicians. That list includes famous names like Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Albert Einstein, Galileo, and Steven Spielberg. Research study after research study continues to show that music education or to be more precise – actively engaging in musical activities on a consistent basis – significantly affects the cognitive development and abilities of participants.

Consider these four big ways music affects the brain.

How Music Affects the Brain

Improved Math Abilities

Long before research studies showed how music-making positively impacts a child’s math abilities and understanding, the great mathematician Pythagorus said, “Music is math made audible.” Now we know that children engaged in math show increased abilities in spatial awareness, pattern recognition, and numbers and measurement. As children grow and continue to participate through high school, music students even score 23 points above average on SAT tests.

Can you identify the pattern in this classic Kindermusik circle dance?


Improved Reading Abilities

We could write a whole book on the connections between music and reading. In fact, we have! (You can download our free ebooks from this page). Children who participate in music classes experience boosts in phonological awareness, auditory discrimination, auditory sequencing, and vocabulary. Plus, reading music even models for children how to read left to right and top to bottom.

Improved Memory

When compared to their peers, musicians have better memories. In addition, musicians show improvements in auditory verbal memory and auditory memory. Dr. Nina Kraus, a prominent brain researcher at Northwestern University, has likened the effects of music on the brain to the effects of exercise on the body. Increasing the working memory capacity of the brain improves thinking ability.

For fun, see how well you do in this Kindermusik Memory Game from our Kindermusik @Home Materials.

Kindermusik memory gameImproved IQ

Children who participate in music classes over time experience a boost in their IQ. In fact, the longer a child participates in a consistent weekly music class, the greater the effect.  But you don’t have to just take our word on it, here’s an interesting article recently put out by the American Psychology Association about this very correlation between music classes and IQ.

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Want to give your child access to the brain-changing power of music? Find a local Kindermusik Educator and visit a class today.

50 Reasons Why Music Gives Kids a Lifetime of Opportunity

50 years of Head Start LogoThis month Head Start celebrates 50 years of life change and we love being able to celebrate this milestone with them at NHSA’s Annual Head Start Conference and Expo. However, it also got us thinking about how music also supports life change in children and families. In fact, we know from experience—and by hearing from the Head Start and Early Head Start programs that use the Kindermusik curricula—that music gets kids ready for learning! So, we put together a list of 50 reasons why music gives kids a lifetime of opportunity.

But first, see how music is changing the lives of these kids and MS421:

50 Reasons Why Music Gives Kids a Lifetime of Opportunity

  1. Music improves phonological awareness.
  2. Music can effectively teach children self-regulation, which research indicates can be a key factor in early school success.
  3. Moving to music helps children become aware of the space around them and strengthens spatial awareness.
  4. Patterns in music help children recognize patterns in math.
  5. Music refines auditory discrimination.
  6. Rhymes and fingerplays give practice with ordering, which is an early math skill.
  7. Musicians have better memories when compared to their peers.
  8. Actively participating in music classes gives young children an opportunity to learn how to share, take turns, and cooperate.
  9. Fingerplays and playing instruments supports fine motor skills development.
  10. Children love music and learning through music teaches them to love learning!
  11. Rhythm skills or lack thereof could predict reading disabilities leading to early intervention.
  12. Music increases auditory sequencing ability.
  13. Music heightens oral language development.
  14. Music enriches vocabulary development.
  15. Steady beat skills give children the ability to read fluidly.
  16. For babies, moving to music in a caregiver’s arms develops babies’ vestibular system, which is responsible for helping the brain understand gravity, gain balance, and develop spatial awareness.
  17. Music enhances speaking skills.
  18. Dancing and moving to music supports cross-lateral movement, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, and eye-tracking—foundational skills for reading.
  19. Participating in music classes supports social and emotional development.
  20. Listening to soothing music can help teach young children to learn how to relax.
  21. Pairing a word with a movement increases children’s understanding of the concept even before they can speak.
  22. Musical activities stimulate development in every area of the brain: vision, Brain on musicbalance, speech, behavior, sensation, skill, movement, and emotion.
  23. Learning to play a musical instrument or sing can help disadvantaged children strengthen their reading and language skills by improving the way their nervous systems process sounds.
  24. Musical ensemble experiences help children to listen closely and work together as they play-along and sing-along together as a group.
  25. Circle dances create a sense of community, belonging, and self-esteem.
  26. Early experiences with music spark the brain connections and neural networks that shape the brain and impact how it will function later in life.
  27. Music encourages children to move and movement stimulates the release of chemicals in a child’s brain that support memory and learning.
  28. Music provides an outlet for self-expression.
  29. Music teaches children sequencing.
  30. Through music, children gain practice recognizing the connections between sounds and symbols.
  31. Singing songs and speaking chants and nursery rhymes improves language development.
  32. Pairing a word with a movement helps young children better understand the concept.
  33. Music and movement provides many opportunities for fine- and gross-motor skills development.
  34. Music helps children gain active listening skills.
  35. Children with early musical training experience advanced executive function skills during cognitive testing.
  36. Research shows that the areas of the brain that process music and language are shared.
  37. It’s fun!
  38. Actively participating in a music class impacts all seven areas of social-emotional development, including confidence, curiosity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, capacity to communicate, and cooperativeness.
  39. Research shows that when children engage in learning through movement that it helps them be more focused and it improves their reading, writing, and fine motor skills.
  40. Music makes classroom routines and transitions easier for children of all abilities.
  41. Researchers from Michigan State University found that 93 percent of STEM KindermusikClass_RhythmSticks_TeachChildrenImportantSkillsgraduates reported musical training as a child compared to only 34 percent of the average adult.
  42. Participation in the arts, including music classes, encourages “out-of-the-box” thinking.
  43. Music helps kids use their imagination.
  44. Learning to read musical notation uses a similar set of cognitive skills and pattern recognition to those found in reading.
  45. Music teaches children how to relax and supports a good night’s sleep.
  46. Music- and rhyme-based play encourages children to practice perception, production, word recognition, and memory for words, and phonemes—all key foundations for phonological awareness.
  47. Different genres of music teach children about the world around them.
  48. The benefits of musical training as children protects the brain in later years, specifically in the ability to parse, sequence, and identify sounds.
  49. Children with better musical skills, such as the ability to tap to a steady beat or repeat rhythm patters, also perform better on grammar tests when compared to peers.
  50. Learning to play a musical instrument or to sing can help disadvantaged children strengthen their reading and language skills by improving the way their nervous systems process sounds.

Want to learn more about the benefits of music and the research behind these 50 reasons? Visit www.kindermusik.com

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell a freelance writer in the Atlanta area. She could give 500 more reasons why music gives children a lifetime of opportunity.

Favorite Minds on Music Blog Posts from 2014

0_why_music_round_greenAt the beginning of January, we often reflect on the passing of another year. For parents, that might mean celebrating all of those “firsts” that happened last year like a baby’s first steps, a little one’s first time sleeping through the night, or maybe that first tooth (or first lost tooth!). In the life of a young child, so many firsts happen in one year! For early childhood teachers, it might mean celebrating how much your students have grown in confidence and abilities.

For us at Kindermusik, we also like to look back at all of the amazing new music research published in the last 12 months that helps answer the question, “Why Music?” After all, we recognize how music really does give children a good beginning that never ends. We invite you to travel with us down Abbey Road Memory Lane as we highlight 11 of our favorite blog posts from 2014, including new research about the power of music.

11 Blog Posts from 2014 about the Benefits of Music Education

Kindermusik Classes - Enroll Now - For a Child's Brain, Body, Heart & SoulWant to see these blog posts in action? Contact your local Kindermusik educator at www.Kindermusik.com and come visit a class.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell. A freelance writer living in the Atlanta area.

Hokey-Pokey Your Way through Everyday Parenting

Everyone speaks music – young, old, all nationalities – through lyrics and through movement.  Music truly is the universal language.  As such, music is the one thing that parents all around the world can use to help them get through their day.
music is the universal language for kids and parents

5 Ways You Can Hokey-Pokey Your Way through Everyday Parenting

In the car
It’s easy to stream music on your phone, pop in a CD, or turn on the radio.  In fact, there’s really no better place than the family car to develop listening skills, expose your child to a variety of musical styles, and best of all, create memories.
Need a good starting point for turning your family taxi into a happening, happy music experience?  Click here for your free “family taxi” playlist!
At naptime and bedtime
Gentle, quiet music can calm and soothe a child to sleep, even when he thinks he’s not tire.  Plus it helps block out the noise when your neighbor decides to mow the lawn in the middle of nap time.  Sleep time can also be a great time to expose your child to a little Bach or Mozart as well as those beloved lullabies.
On a rainy day
Music is like indoor sunshine on a rainy, dreary day.  Depending on what kind of music you choose, music can be a quiet accompaniment for play time, inspiration for a parade around the house, or a giggly, happy way to dance the rainy day blues away.  (Dance long enough, and they’ll be more than ready for a nice long nap too!)
You can also take a video field trip without leaving the house.  You’ll love this “Big Back Yard” field trip that takes you and your child to see some beautiful butterflies, up close and personal!
Before dinner
It can be really tough to juggle making dinner and keeping a little one happy, especially towards the end of the day.  Turn on some bright, happy music, get out some wooden spoons and plastic bowls, and let the concert begin!  And while you’re waiting for that pasta to boil, why not take a spin around the kitchen with your child as your dance partner?
For family together time
Whether you have some child-friendly instruments or you improvise, there’s nothing that bonds a family more than making music together in a family jam session.  Or maybe you decide to establish a little ritual to welcome Dad home each day by doing a little dance together – like the Jungle Hokey-Pokey!  No matter how you choose to speak the language, music is the delightful common thread that binds hearts together, making memories that truly will last forever.

The Jungle Hokey-Pokey

Why Kindermusik?  With an expansive music library, Home Materials, and rich resources for parents (Did you grab your family taxi playlist or try the Jungle Hokey-Pokey yet?), Kindermusik classes provide plenty of musical inspiration for singing, dancing, and playing your way through the daily childhood routines that can be made happier and a whole lot easier with music!
Find out more about Kindermusik at www.Kindermusik.com!

This post was adapted from an article originally written by Theresa Case for Macaroni Kid Greenville.  Theresa has an award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina.

New Research: Music Can Offset Children’s Academic Gaps

Musical activities stimulate development in every area of the brain

Musical activities stimulate development in every area of the brainMusic changes us. Of course, we know that music can move us to tears, conjure up (and make) memories, or even quiet a child’s cries. However, music also literally changes our brains!
A new presentation from neuroscientist Nina Kraus at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention displays some of the strongest research to-date proving how music changes the brains of children who are most at risk.

The Science Behind Music’s Impact on Learning

At the convention, Kraus shared her research findings that indicate learning to play a musical instrument or to sing can help disadvantaged children strengthen their reading and language skills by improving the way their nervous systems process sounds in a busy environment, such as a classroom. The boost to the neural function can lead to improved memory and longer attention spans, which help children focus better in school and improve communication skills.
“Research has shown that there are differences in the brains of children raised in impoverished environments that affect their ability to learn,” Kraus explained in a press release about her research study, Biological, Behavioral, and Academic Impact of Musical Training in At-Risk Children. “While more affluent students do better in school than children from lower income backgrounds, we are finding that musical training can alter the nervous system to create a better learner and help offset this academic gap.”
See, music changes our brains!
Kraus’ partner at The Harmony Project is Margaret Martin, DrPH, MPH. She started The Harmony Project in 2001 to serve children of poverty in areas with school dropout rates above 50 percent. To help prove that music improves language and literacy abilities of children, she enlisted the help of Kraus. And, what a great partnership for all music educators!
“Early sustained music learning is actually the frame upon which education itself can be built for low income kids,” Martin explained in this PBSNewsHour segment:

Musical training in early childhood

In Kindermusik early childhood classes for children from newborn through age 7, we intentionally use music as the vehicle for learning. So naturally, we get excited when research proves that musical activities really do have a positive impact on the way children learn.
Kindermusik supports all areas of development including—musical, language, emotional, physical, social, and cognitive development. When children actively participate in musical experiences, they engage their whole brain in the process. Here are just four areas and examples of how Kindermusik programs use music (and movement) to support a young child’s development:

  1. Communication Skills: When we recite a rhyme about shaking an apple tree then shake our bodies in the same way or sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” and move our bodies to touch our heads, shoulders, etc., children develop a vocabulary and understanding of these concepts, even in infancy…by seeing, hearing, and doing.
  2. Listening Skills: By focusing intently on one sound, such as the beat of a drum,
    Laura Ainamo teaches English in Zimbabwe with Kindermusik
    Kindermusik class in Zimbabwe teaches children through music.

    children practice the skills of attention and engaged listening. Encouraging children to imitate the sound and discussing the sound increases comprehension and learning.
  3. Memory: Young children move to learn and learn to move. We specifically include lots of movement in our classes, which stimulates the release of chemicals in children’s brains that support memory and learning. So, when we dance a jig or hop like a frog children get the wiggles out….and keep the learning in!
  4. Comprehension: Engaging in language and literacy-rich musical activities that incorporate movement such as tapping the steady beat to a nursery rhyme correspond to greater comprehension.

Find out more about Kindermusik at www.Kindermusik.com.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer living in Atlanta, Georgia.

Music Tunes Kids in for a Great Year

Music tunes kids in to learning from the very first day of life. After all, even babies in neonatal care experience reduced heart rates and deeper sleep when listening to live music. Research shows that musical activities stimulate development in every area of the brain: vision, balance, speech, behavior, sensation, skill, movement, and emotion. Music also impacts all learning domains (cognition, language and literacy, social and emotional, physical, creative, music). Music celebrates the unique joys of each year and developmental stage and prepares children for a lifetime of learning.

Musical activities to try at home or in the classroom that tune kids in to learning

For Babies: A baby cooing and babbling and imitating a lullaby being sung is learning how language works while also bonding with a caregiver. Gently swaying with the baby in time to the music adds vestibular development, pivotal to balance, coordination, eye control, and movement.
Music activities for kidsFor Toddlers: Toddlers who march, stomp, jump, and tiptoe to a steady beat tapped on rhythm sticks are discovering new ways to move their bodies—and gaining confidence and an understanding of spatial awareness, too. Instructing children to stop when the beat stops (and moving when the beat starts again) includes inhibitory control development as toddlers learn to control their bodies.
For Preschoolers: In a Preschool class when children experience musical rhythm patterns through movement, they also lay an early foundation for reading music and words on a page. When preschoolers play instruments along to the rhythms in a song, they also practice active listening and pattern recognition—with strong correlations to word recognition, speaking, reading, writing, and even math.
For Big Kids: 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 practice active listening. Considering that school children spend an estimated 50 to 75 percent of classroom time listening to the teacher, to other students, or to media, developing strong active listening skills prepares kids for classroom learning.

Musical learning: The ultimate multi-tasker

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), “Any activity that stimulates one area of development automatically influences others. Good curriculum design must recognize and plan for this integration.” Activity by activity, every lesson in Kindermusik is designed to address multiple areas of development—and to tap into a variety of individual learning styles. Kindermusik’s carefully crafted activities and deliberately integrated sequences set the stage for optimal, multi-sensory learning experiences.
For example, children exploring the concepts of fast and slow might hear music that alternates between the two tempos. They may practice moving or playing instruments in time with what they hear. They could hear a story about a slow snail and a fast cheetah. In short, they explore and internalize the new concepts more effectively through multiple senses and activity types. (Not to mention, such an activity cluster also hones listening skills, self-control, expressive movement proprioception, coordination, and other skills!)

YC boy with new logoFind out more about Kindermusik at www.Kindermusik.com

Music Education Prepares Children for Future Careers & Problem Solving

We sing about the benefits of music a lot. Some might even call us melomaniacs—people who are passionate about music. (By the way, we are!) After all, we never hesitate to explain how music helps children develop listening skills, supports early language and literacy, builds social and emotional skills, and even boosts balance and coordination. We even belt out a song or two—or twenty—at random times throughout the day. We can’t stop ourselves! We love music.

Survey Says! Music education prepares kids for successful careers.

Music_Education_Prepares_KidsApparently, most Americans love music, too, at least when it comes to music preparing them for successful careers. According to a new Harris Interactive Poll of 2,286 adults, 71 percent of Americans say that the teachings and habits from music education equip them to be better team players in their careers and two-thirds confess that music education prepares people with a disciplined approach to problem solving and prepares someone to manage tasks on their job more successfully. Other attributes learned in music classes applicable to successful careers include working as part of a team toward a common goal, striving for individual excellence in a group setting, and flexibility in a work situation.

Ready for the future, celebrating the moment

Children respond to music in profound ways. Music literally lights up all areas—on both hemispheres—of the brain. In our classes, we know that playing music together is more than, well, playing the individual instruments, singing the words, or moving together in a circle dance. It is learning how to work as a group, how to share, how to listen and respond to others, and it’s even about learning that every child’s ideas hold value. Creating music together also imbeds lifelong memories into the banks of our children’s thoughts. So, whether singing a lullaby to your infant each night to signal bedtime, combining music with movement to enhance motor skills and muscle development in a Head Start or Preschool program, or singing the songs together as a family in the car, participating in music classes celebrates the beauty of childhood and gives children skills applicable as an adult in the working world.

Find out more about Kindermusik at www.Kindermusik.com.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer living in Atlanta, Georgia.

Music Before your Baby is Born

benefits of prenatal musicExpectant parents plan for – and worry about! – a lot of things.  Your unborn baby’s musical development may not be on the check list just yet, but don’t worry – you and your baby are more prepared than you might think.
Your baby is already musical!  After all, he/she has been listening to the steady beat of your heartbeat and listening to your voice – which happens to be the most beautiful sound in the world to your little one’s ears!
Your baby is able to see, hear, feel, and learn even before birth.  Music is a powerful stimuli, and as such, can help enhance physical, emotional, sensory, and mental development.  According to Dr. Sarah Brewer, “…[m]usically stimulated babies seem to develop more quickly, talking up to six months earlier, and have improved intellectual development.”
Your baby is already developing musical preferences.  Studies have shown that the music a baby hears frequently while in the womb will be some of his favorite music to listen to when he’s born… until he’s around two years of age, that is.  After that, he’ll let you know what his new opinions are about music!
Your baby benefits from a variety of music.  You don’t have to limit your pregnancy play list to only Mozart or quiet lullabies.  “Diversity of different kinds of music are essential and can be useful for the baby’s future writing, reading, and language skills,” says Dr. Philip A. De Fina, chief neuropsychologist and director of neurotherapies at the NYU Brain Research Laboratories.
As with all good things, the key with music stimulation is moderation.  If you’re getting tired of listening to certain music, chances are your baby is too!  To find some great music recordings and musical inspiration, look no further than your nearest Kindermusik educator.  One of the hallmarks of Kindermusik is our musical variety in class and at home through your @Home Materials.  Your local Kindermusik educator would be delighted to have you come visit a class, even before your baby is born.  And then your Kindermusik enrollment is one more thing you can check off the list before your new arrival turns your life happy-crazy upside-down.
ways to hold baby posterAnd so, when things settle down a bit, we’ll look forward to having you and your newborn in Kindermusik.  The brain grows and develops at an astounding rate in the early years, and there’s no better window of opportunity for exposing your baby to the rich developmental benefits of music.  Plus you’ll love the opportunity to gain precious insights into this new little miracle as you spend special time together in class, make new friends, find a support network, and savor these precious, fleeting moments of babyhood.  Parents agree… there’s no better bonding experience than Kindermusik.  We’ll look forward to seeing you in class soon!

Find your local Kindermusik educator and schedule your free visit today!

Contributed by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program is located in beautiful upstate South Carolina.

4 Benefits of Music for Big Kids

Mom sings to and sways her baby during one of Kindermusik's baby music classes.

Kindermusik_SoundtrackForAnySeason_web-250x250-250x250Growing up, but not all grown up yet – thankfully!  The early years of childhood pass so quickly, and before you know it, your child has officially earned “big kid” status.  The turbulence of the toddler years and the exuberance of the preschool years are past, and your big kid can mostly be described as composed, calm, cheerful, and capable.  Big kids are eager, curious learners, and they love to share their ideas.
For a big kid, self-esteem, feeling capable, and doing things the “right way” all go hand-in-hand.  They thrive on structure and affirmation, but they still need time to play and have fun.  Big kids love being part of a group, and they crave friendship and acceptance from their peers, preferring to play and interact with others than to be by themselves.  And while their thinking can be black-and-white, cognitively, they have made huge leaps in their ability to problem-solve and think more abstractly.  Big kids tend to ask alot of “why” and “how” questions because they love to know a lot of facts.  They love simple games, and having lots of time for creative play is very important.  Movements are much more poised and controlled, and big kids loving showing off their new-found physical skills.
It is truly the age of opportunity for these learners-in-waiting.  But it also a time not to be rushed through or passed over.  The big kids years are a special time to settle in and enjoy the last phase of early childhood and to provide your child with experiences and opportunities that will set him up for success in school, in music, and in life.
That’s where Kindermusik comes in, providing a weekly class that satisfies the need to be part of a group, to learn new things, to play games, and to express oneself through music and movement.  And in the middle of all of the fun and music-making, a very strong foundation is being laid for a successful transition to music lessons a little later on.
Here are four invaluable benefits of music for big kids:
1. Music exposes big kids to big, new ideas.
At this age, these eager learners are ready to be introduced to rhythms and rhythm patterns, music symbols, keyboards and dulcimers, and writing and composing their own music through hands-on and developmentally appropriate experiences.  They can follow the story line of a work like “Peter and the Wolf” and identify the various motifs and instruments that are the hallmark of this beloved musical tale.
2. Music teaches big kids to be good listeners.
Focused listening and discriminatory listening are a big part of music.  Listening for certain things in music or to certain music sounds as well as being able to distinguish between musical sounds and instruments develop listening skills. And while being a good listener is a musical skill, it’s also an extremely valuable life skill.
3. Music helps make the cognitive connections needed for nearly every kind of intelligence.
We all want our kids to be smart and to be successful, and music is the one common contributing factor in almost all of the nine types of intelligence.  According to articles like this one and this one, it’s early experiences with music that best spark the brain connections and neural networks that actually shape the brain and impact how it will function later in life.
4. Music is one thing that stays in a child’s heart for forever.
There are lots of choices for early childhood – dance, sports, gymnastics, and more!  But music is the one love, the one ability, that a child has the potential to carry with them all the way through their entire lives.  Developing in your child a love and appreciation for music at an early age is a life-long gift you can give, and it’s something that will also carry with it special memories of the loved ones who made that gift possible.
BenefitsOfKindermusik_BigKidsMusicClasses_InfographicFor parents…
You want to give your child every advantage, and there’s truly no greater advantage you can give than music, especially in a program like Kindermusik.  It’s the right activity at the right time, when your child is poised and ready to soak it all in and be enable to apply that knowledge to music lessons and musical experiences in the future.  Kindermusik truly is the perfect foundation for lifelong learning.
And yet as profoundly as Kindermusik affects your child’s musical development, the musical learning is fun, pressure-free, and exactly what your child needs at a time when they can benefit from it the most.
“Music develops the appetite for learning and creates habits of self-discipline and personal tenacity which carry over into every facet of school.  Young musicians are skilled at concentration, alertness, memory, and self-control.  These attributes are basic for success in higher education, but more importantly, in succeeding at life.”
 The Joy of Inspired Teaching, by Tim Lautzenheiser, p. 55

Young Child students play glockenspiel dulcimer drum and recorder
Expose your child to the benefits of Kindermusik, the world’s leader in early childhood music and movement curricula.  Try a Kindermusik class today!