We all love to hear our children coming home singing songs they have learned at school. BUT did you know how much music is strengthening their brain development and helping to set them up for future academic success? As their music teacher, I am always thinking about the development of your “whole child” as I plan, dance, sing, play, move, imagine, interact, and make music with your children here at the Day School. As a music and child development nerd, allow me to share some of this excitement with you!
1. Music makes STRONGER memory connections. After all, we ALL learned the alphabet through song! We all have certain songs we hear that automatically connect us to a special memory, person, or place. At school, we use music and rhythm to memorize scriptures, expectations, letter sounds, learn Spanish, and to help us through transitions. Consider how you can use music and rhythmic patterns at home to teach and guide your children. When my kiddos were little we chanted “shoes on the shoe shelf, potty, wash hands” whenever we got home. Maybe you sing the simple Daniel Tiger song, “Grownups Come Back” for reassurance as you drop your toddler off at school. (I highly recommend the DT App for Parents found on PBS Kids.) Or maybe you have a special lullaby you sing each night to your child. Regardless, remember that music is a simple learning-loving tool that you can use anywhere, anytime to build a brain and family connection.
2. There is a strong connection between music and math. Counting beats, playing rhythms, recognizing patterns and forms, singing scales, reading intervals on the staff...it’s ALL math! And it strengthens those connections in preparation for understanding ratios, addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, algebraic equations, and beyond.
3. Music improves social-emotional skills. When we bow to a partner or share a musical hand rhyme, we are practicing our social skills. Expressing emotion in a variety of music gives us a chance to interpret and communicate a variety of feelings. And when we move our bodies to match the tempo of the piano, when we stop and make a statue, we are building our internal control, the #1 skill needed for moving along to become a successful kindergarteners!
4. Music improves oral language and listening skills. Hearing is a sense we are born with, but “listening” is a focused skill that takes practice, and one your kiddos will need for academic success and life. In music, We “practice” listening to instrument sounds, animal sounds, even interesting sounds our mouths and bodies make (tongue clicks, hands rubbing, “b...b...b...ball”) by turning on our ears, and isolating the sounds. We have fun mimicking these sounds with our voices and repeating phrases and patterns. Consider how you can “play the listening game” in your car, at home, on a walk as you embrace the quiet and identify different sounds you hear...There is a wonderful children’s book called “The Listening Walk” by Paul Showers that has always inspired me.
5. Music improves literacy skills and comprehension. “Preschoolers who can tap in time with beats have stronger reading readiness and more precise neural encoding of speech.” (Dr. Nina Kraus, Director of Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University). They develop a better “inner” reading voice because rhythm and reading skills both rely on stable sound processing. AND they have a larger vocabulary to draw on from all the nursery rhymes they’ve learned!!
And finally, in a world that is too divided, I most appreciate the power of music to UNITE us. When people join their voices together to share one song, to dance to one drumbeat, to pause and listen to one beautiful violin concerto, it is a magical thing. We become one family, as God intends.