When we see or hear music being played our brain interprets the auditory input, but additionally ‘mirror neurons‘ related to muscles needed to play the instrument and the emotions portrayed by the music are fired off. Therefore, experiencing music is hugely stimulating for a child’s brain in many different ways. It is thought that the areas of the brain activated by music are also linked to sequencing (and related skills such as reading and mathematics) and reasoning. The variations in music are also stimulating; ‘mirror neurons’ are predictive, meaning that our brains can become familiar with (and bored of) too much repetition, but are almost surprised by small changes in musical patterns.
“Music, more than many of the arts, triggers a whole host of Neurons.”
(David Byrne, author of How Music Works)
Traditionally parents think that classical music such as Mozart CD’s and DVD’s such as Baby Mozart support their child’s brain development, but in fact any sound that has a rhythm allows brain stimulation. Research has suggested that children who are actively involved in music (i.e. not just passively listening to it) also show better spatial, reading and speech skills as well as a higher IQ. Music can also support verbal development, as words that rhyme or have a melody are easier to remember than words in a sentence.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
(Victor Hugo, 19th century French poet)
Music also has many other developmental benefits for children:
- improves a child’s hand-eye-coordination and develops their fine motor skills, for example when playing the keyboard or plucking stings
- helps them practice patience as this is needed when learning simple rhythmic patterns
- builds a child’s confidence in their musical ability whenever they successfully learn a sequence
- allows them to experience a range of emotions, ranging from enjoyment and exhilaration to sadness and reflection
- develops listening skills from an early age and allows children to hear and understand harmonies, melodies, the pitch, volume, rhythms and patterns, different tones, as well as recognising the sounds of different instruments
- allows children to be creative with a new medium and try out making their own sounds with various instrument
Furthermore, music produces a sensory environment and can support children with special educational needs (SEN), as the rhythms enhance communication skills as well as interpersonal skills, such as self-regulations and coping strategies. A study by Sussman (2009) found that preschool children with SEN played with their friends for longer and were more attentive when musical activities were incorporated into their play. This research shows that music helps social interaction and this could be because music reduces anxiety some children have when playing with peers. Music can be used to relax children and acts as a stress buster.
This post was written by Dr Amanda Gummer