Music 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 learnerand 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 andexamples of how Kindermusik programs use music (and movement) to support a young child’s development:
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.
Listening Skills: By focusing intently on one sound, such as the beat of a drum,
children practice the skills of attention and engaged listening. Encouraging children to imitate the sound and discussing the sound increases comprehension and learning.
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!
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.
Recent research sparked this striking headline in an AFP article: “Baby talk is more than just bonding: chatting with your infant spurs important brain development that sets the stage for lifelong learning…”
So, exactly HOW do you go about having these vital conversations with your baby, you ask? Well, you’ve come to the right place. At Kindermusik, we love sharing tips that make great parenting a little bit easier, help your child advance developmentally, and make your lives a whole lot more musical.
Start the conversation habit at a young age. There’s a window of opportunity in the early years when the brain is undergoing incredible growth.
Look your baby in the eye when you talk to him or her. Feeding time, bath time, baby massage, or diaper changes are all easy opportunities to engage your baby.
Speak to your baby using regular vocabulary and full sentences. This helps your child develop a wider vocabulary and process spoken language better.
Give your child a chance to respond. If you talk and then wait for a response, this will cue your baby to coo or babble back.
Sing to your child. Young children benefit tremendously from the repetition of words and even from new or different words found in song lyrics.
Play with rhymes. Whether it’s words you rhyme or simple children’s poems, chants, fingerplays, or toe tickles, rhyming not only enhances language development, but it also paves the way to literacy.
Need some inspiration for talking or singing to your baby? Enroll in a Kindermusik! You’ll receive tips and ideas in class and interactive Home Materials to help the music, learning, and fun last through the week at home. It’s easy to get started with a free preview class, or simply by finding your local licensed Kindermusik educator.
Kindermusik is dedicated to bringing you and your child a variety of music. See how this type of exposure to musical learning expands your child’s development of 4 essential, surprisingly, non-musical skills.
Greater language proficiency
Just as you read a variety of books to expand your child’s vocabulary, exposure to a wide variety of music and sounds expands your child’s “ear vocabulary.” High quality musical recordings and real instruments help your child “fine tune” her ear to recognize and imitate the sounds that make up words and language.
When a child listens to music, her mind perceives the sound in multi-dimensional ways. The sound is loud or soft, fast or slow, it moves up and down, or left to right. Eventually, she’ll use that “awareness of space” to work with her body when she walks through the living room and tries not to hit the coffee table. Much later, this same awareness is necessary skill for learning how to get around things, jump, run, and move in zig-zag ways.
You hear this skill in action when a preschooler tells a story. He starts with his own experience and then moves to some imagined place with a princess or a superhero then goes back to something real again. Music does the same thing. It goes back and forth between established places (the chorus) and to new places that take you somewhere else (the verse). The ability to go back and forth from something established to something imagined comes from temporal reasoning, a skill used in music writing, storytelling, and problem solving.
With exposure to a greater variety of musical styles—like jazz, folk, or classical, this increased exposure to music increases a child’s awareness and understanding of different moods and emotions.
So there you have it – at least four reasons why we make the claim that Kindermusik is so much more than just music. But we’ll not only help your child become a better learner, we’ll also deliver a classroom experience that inspires a lifelong love for music and gives you tips, ideas, and tools like Kindermusik@Home,resources for parents and educational activities for kids with music downloads that make great parenting just a little bit easier. Edited and revised by Theresa Case, whose Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, is proudly among the top 1% of Kindermusik programs worldwide.
At Kindermusik, we know music has positive effects on early childhood development and language acquisition. And when there’s new research to prove it, we get more excited!
Language Development in Children
New research, reported this week in Science Daily suggests that babies who are able to recognize pitch could also detect language rules, even better than adults. Scientists found that “when it comes to extracting complex rules from spoken language, a three-month-old outperforms adult learners”.
By monitoring babies’ brain responses, scientists were able to determine that infants detected discrepancies with language rules just by hearing changes in syllables or pitch.
“These findings not only help understand how children manage to learn language so quickly during early development, but also point to a strong link between very basic auditory skills and sophisticated rule learning abilities.”
So, next time you’re at Kindermusik class with your little one, think about all the different changes in pitch and tone your child is exposed to – this is actively supporting your child’s language development skills.
We know music has many benefits, especially for the way kids learn and how a child’s brain develops. So we get excited about supportive research like this study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience:
A team of researchers at Northwestern University, including the well-known Nina Kraus, share findings on the benefits of early childhood music education.
“…Childhood music instructionhasstrong linguistic benefits and improves performance on everyday listening tasks. Since we live in an inherently noisy world, the better we are at focusing on sound and perceiving different sounds, the better. This can be particularly important for children with learning disordersor those for whom English is a second language.”
Through this study and other research, here are some known benefits of music training:
Bolsters brain function
Strengthens reading skills
Increases math abilities
Improves social development
Helps people become better team players
Our mission at Kindermusik, to instill a lifelong love of music and a foundation for learning in children, completely aligns with this research. We are especially thrilled about the quote from Nina Kraus, supporting the concept that even little exposure to music as can go a long way…
“Based on what we already know about the ways that music helps shape the brain, the study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning,” said Kraus.
We encourage you to share your love for music & extend the benefits of music to others. Please invite your friends and family to Try a Free Kindermusik Class!
Music is unique to humans, and as basic as language to human development and existence. It is through music that a child gains insight into herself, into others, and into life itself. Perhaps most importantly, music is part of what enables a child to better develop and sustain her creativity and imagination. Because a day does not pass without hearing or participating in some kind of music, it is to a child’s advantage to understand music as thoroughly as she can.
As a result, she will learn to appreciate, listen to, and partake in music all the rest of her life (adapted from Gordon, 1990).
Ideas for parents:
It can be very simple to surround your child with music – the greater the variety, the better!
Singing simple songs together can get the morning off to a great start.
Child-safe instruments and some recorded music can provide happy times of self-entertainment or together time.