Learning Music Provides Lifelong Benefits for Kids
Parents, teachers, and caregivers are often encouraged to read to even the youngest babies in order to give their language development an early boost. But did you know that listening to and learning about music can provide many of the same benefits?
The Value of Learning
Learning to play a musical instrument later in their childhood can also help kids develop a wide range of skills. For instance, music students must learn to quickly identify a note on the page and translate it to an action on their instrument. In this process, they determine how long to hold the note, what fingers to use, and how loudly to play it, among other details. So learning to read and comprehend music can boost reading and comprehension skills across the board. In fact, studies have shown that music training can even positively alter brain development and increase reading ability not just for emerging readers, but also for at-risk high school students.
And, through instruction on beat, rhythm, and scales, children are learning essential math skills, including how to divide, create fractions, and identify patterns, according to an article in Parents. So experts conclude that trying to master music primes a child's brain to help grasp other math fundamentals.
Playing musical instruments can also help develop young people’s physical skills. For instance, instruments such as the saxophone and clarinet require players to simultaneously perform different actions with their right and left hands, which enhances ambidexterity. Overall, the physical demands of learning and playing an instrument can improve students’ coordination and timing, skills that carry over to other hobbies including dance and sports.
And some of the best news is that kids don’t have to be musical prodigies to reap the rewards of learning an instrument. In fact, some positive findings are based on research focusing on kids who played twice a week for 20 minutes each session. And the benefits of learning to play aren’t limited to a certain instrument, so the important part is working with your child to choose something they’ll stick with.
Of course, if you discover that your child’s love of music has led them to a very noisy instrument, it might be time to consider soundproofing a room in your house. Practice, after all, makes perfect, which means your child will need a dedicated place to do so without disrupting the household or disturbing the neighborhood. Although soundproofing a room sounds like a big chore, you can hire professionals to get the job done for you; however, keep in mind that the average price runs around $1,739, so make sure you budget accordingly.
The Value of Listening
Indeed, exposing even very young children to music can help them become better readers and writers later in life. For example, hearing music helps kids develop their ability to listen to sound attentively. Being exposed to music also increases children’s phonological awareness, or their ability to hear and distinguish sounds that make up words in spoken language.
“Through phonological awareness, children learn to associate sounds with symbols, and create links to word recognition and decoding skills necessary for reading,” according to a story included in “State of Opportunity,” a reporting project by Michigan Radio, the public radio station at the University of Michigan.
The story also reported that music instruction enriched kids’ vocabulary, refined their ability to distinguish between the different sounds that build words, and improved their ability to remember and reconstruct the order, or sequence, of sounds within a word or syllable, which is a necessary skill for learning to read.
Another bonus: These skills extend far beyond elementary school and high school. Research shows that musically trained people process linguistic materials slightly faster than those without training, while other studies show musicians have advantages when it comes to their working memory, among other cognitive measures that could indicate a reduced risk of dementia later in life. Musicians are also better able to separate speech from background noise as they age, and have a more honed attention span, which helps keep them connected to friends and family during conversations.
Plus, the socialization and confidence-building benefits that began in elementary music class and high school band can extend into adulthood. For instance, people who learned to play the clarinet as kids can join like-minded adults who play for community orchestras.
So if you are a parent, teacher, or caregiver, consider introducing music into children’s day-to-day routine and encourage them to learn an instrument when they’re old enough to give it the proper attention and effort. If they do, they could be reaping rewards for years to come.