The power of music
How music education enriches child development
Jules Fitzgerald argues that access to a good, all-round musical education gives children significant advantages in their cognitive and social development. He identifies 5 areas of development in which a music education can make a difference.
A music education for all
We all need music education. It doesn’t necessarily have to lead to a child becoming a professional pianist, guitar player or cellist in the future. However, through the process of learning music, children develop important skills that can help them navigate through life as they grow, helping them excel in various ways. In terms of child development, music has the ability to shape how a child grows intellectually, emotionally, physically and socially. This is why music education is an effective tool in helping kids reach their full potential.
Most of the benefits that children get from actively participating in music study stem from how musical activities involve nearly every structure and function of the brain. Numerous neuroscientific and qualitative studies cited by groups such as the Royal Conservatory of Music and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation have concluded that music has a positive developmental effect on brain function and structure, increasing a person’s ability and skill in areas such as language, memory and creativity.
These studies also support anecdotal evidence from parents and teachers who observed how children learning music showed marked improvement in other aspects as well, from motor and cognitive skills to self-confidence and relationships with others.
Music education and overall child development
Children develop several skills through participation in learning activities centered on music. Here’s an overview of five areas of child development in which a music education can make a difference.
1. Cognitive development
Music influences children’s ability to learn as well as build critical thinking and concentration skills. Music learning has been linked to increased IQ and academic performance among children. In one study, researchers observed an increase in the IQs of children who were given lessons in piano and voice.
Other studies have found that children who had music training have a larger growth in neural activity than those who were not involved in music. In addition, individuals who have had formal studies in music also tend to have a better working memory than those who did not undergo music training.
Spatial-temporal skills also improved in children who had music instruction. This means that children with a good understanding of music can better visualize which elements go together. These skills are extremely valuable for applications that involve solving problems. People working with computers and in the fields of engineering, architecture, gaming, art and mathematics have a high level of spatial intelligence.
2 Speech and language development
Music study also contributes to the development of speech and language. While children are naturally equipped to learn and use language, a musically rich environment can help enhance those abilities and make children more linguistically competent.
Children who are musically trained have also been found to have increased phonological skills. This can help them not only in learning words faster but also in learning to read sooner and build a richer vocabulary.
3. Fine motor skill development
Learning to play a musical instrument enhances children’s ability to use their small muscles, particularly their hands and fingers. Playing an acoustic guitar, for example, develops finger strength and dexterity, allowing children to develop fine motor skills necessary for other tasks such as tying their shoes and using writing, drawing and crafting tools (crayons, pens, scissors, knitting needles, etc.).
4. Gross motor skill development
Gross motor skiills, or the ability to use large muscle groups like the legs and arms are developed, along with visual-motor coordination, when undertaking music-related activities such as performing hand-clapping songs or moving their body to music.
In a recent study, researchers found that children who engaged in hand-clapping songs had an advantage in eye-hand motor sequences compared with those who did not. In a further study showed that children who were musically trained performed more accurately in tasks that involved discrete and continuous movement.
5. Social and emotional development
Music training builds self-confidence. It also helps in developing how children relate and interact with others. Through music, children are able to understand their own feelings and employ appropriate forms of self-expression. Children who participate in musical activities together also learn how to collaborate and cooperate, be mindful of others and work as a team.
To summarize, music education enriches the development of children in a variety of ways and has long-term value in helping kids grow up to be smart, creative, capable and caring individuals.
The challenge now is to persuade as many parents and educators as possible to recognize the lifelong benefits of music and create an environment that fosters and encourages music learning as a central part of any child’s education.
Jules Fitzgerald is a regular writer on topics such as guitars and the music industry. He is a regular contributor around the web with some very read-worthy articles. When not writing, Jules enjoys acting at his local drama club and performing in plays.
He is a regular blogger for knowyourinstrument.com
Feature image by Gavin Whitner
Support images: congerdesign, Vladvictoria, fietzfotos & mirceaianc – Pixabay