Benefits of Music Education in Early Childhood
Playtime should encompass and enhance the developmental skills kids learn in other areas of their lives. Music education is a distinct feature of many school districts. Music classes teach many valuable life skills, so kids can learn and grow in healthy ways while having fun and developing new talents to share with the world.
All kids can make music, and many kids are excited by the idea of creating their own songs and expressing their creative side through singing or playing instruments. Giving kids of all ages and abilities the opportunity to explore their musical talents at school and beyond can produce a generation that’s creative, confident, collaborative and successful in future academic and career endeavors.
Learning through music in early childhood is an incredibly effective way for kids to develop necessary social and cognitive skills. By creating a playground that incorporates musical elements, you can help the kids in your community further expand on the musical knowledge they gain in school.
Skills Music Education Provides to Kids
Listening to, learning and playing music activates many interconnected regions of the brain. The frontal lobe and hippocampus receive auditory input, the auditory cortex lets people hear sounds, the amygdala helps people respond emotionally and the temporal lobe helps people process language and contributes to their understanding of lyrics and ability to memorize songs.
The brain is plastic, meaning it has the capacity to change over time as people, especially young kids, are introduced to new stimuli, knowledge and experiences. Some aspects of music education directly build crucial skills made possible by the brain’s plasticity, while other aspects of learning music emphasize additional skills by positively altering how kids think.
The many benefits of music in early childhood include:
Music education facilitates increased learning in other subject areas by giving kids creative thinking skills they can use in all facets of their lives. The stimulating effects of music jump-start innovative thinking, so kids can approach challenging academic subjects by approaching problems from unique angles and coming up with creative solutions. Many academic subjects require inventive problem solving, such as learning several interconnected ways to reach the same answer to a math problem, developing a scientific hypothesis or analyzing book characters.
Kids who study music from an early age also learn that hard work gives them positive results, which often inspires them to try hard and do well in other areas of their lives as well.
Speech and Language Skills
Like spoken language, music includes sounds for kids to speak, listen to and decode. Training in music exercises the left side of the brain, which is also involved in language processing. Music-rich environments help kids practice the listening and verbal skills necessary for understanding and communicating through spoken language.
Music training is also linked to improved phonological skills, which are a person’s ability to discern, compare and use syllables in words. Music may not explicitly teach language skills, but it still impacts kids’ abilities to process aspects of language, such as syllables and rhyme.
Singing songs and conducting listening exercises can help kids become familiar with the various sound components that make up words. The rhythms and tones of spoken language are similar to music, so kids can learn to discern and convey tone by learning music from an early age.
Neural Activity Growth
Brains create thoughts through a series of complex connections between nerve cells, called neurons. Brains need sensory input to establish and strengthen these connections. When people learn new things, especially young kids whose brains are more open to change, electrical brain impulses strengthen specific connections by physically changing the brain so it can more easily recognize and respond to those stimuli in the future.
Kids involved in some form of musical education and play have more neural activity growth than kids with less music in their lives. Playing or listening to music makes kids use more of their brain at once, as they’re repeatedly performing a complex task. Music provides kids with stronger thinking capacities, physically changing their brains for the better.
Inhibition control is a person’s ability to control their behavioral responses. Teaching music to young kids with an emphasis on rhythm can help improve their inhibition control. Learning music helps kids focus and improve their concentration skills, so they can complete tasks more efficiently and decrease their impulsive behaviors.
Learning and understanding music can help kids develop multistep problem-solving skills involving visualizing elements of a situation that should go together. For instance, people use the same parts of the brain to play music as they do to solve math problems. The spatial-temporal skills kids develop through music are important for success in other areas as well, such as working with computers, creating art and working in careers such as architecture and engineering.
Much of learning has to do with memory. Formal music training, such as playing music or singing songs, improves people’s memories, especially their ability to remember what they’ve read or heard. In fact, educational information in the form of songs helps kids retain new information, as they can link what they’ve learned to familiar tunes.
Even while reading words or notes from sheet music, kids are still repeatedly practicing skills, as they remember which actions produce which sounds and how to correctly read music to achieve their desired sounds. Musicians are also better able to use their memory recall skills to contextualize unfamiliar problems by thinking through their prior knowledge and coming up with new solutions.
Humans have the unique ability to create patterns out of sensory inputs to make meaning and predict what will happen next. Pattern recognition is important for basic social functions such as language and recognizing familiar faces, as well as more complex tasks such as solving math problems.
Kids can learn to recognize and respond to patterns by engaging in music education, which provides a fun means of repetition through rehearsing songs, learning musical scales, and even creating new patterns by making their own songs.
Music has a profound impact on the way people learn to move. The brain is divided into two halves, which are connected by a thick series of nerve fibers called the corpus callosum, which allows the two sides of the brain to communicate with each other. Exercising the corpus callosum is important for all kinds of physical and cognitive activities, such as coordination and the ability to process complex information.
Many musical education lessons include physical components, such as arm gestures that cross the body’s midline or dance steps repeated on both sides of the body that strengthen the connections between the halves of the brain and improve kids’ coordination.
Music can be especially effective when teaching kids with developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Down Syndrome, and learning difficulties such as ADHD and Dyslexia. Music programs intentionally designed for kids with social and learning difficulties can help kids improve coordination, identify and reproduce tones, and improve their learning processes.
Any disability-focused music programs must have foundations in current research, as studies are constantly changing to better support kids with disabilities based on new information.
Other Positive Effects of Music Education for Young Kids
Learning music entices many kids to learn more about the world around them while thinking creatively and learning fun skills. Just as music education is important for fostering cognitive skills, it can also play a significant role in creating healthy social environments and personal habits.
Some of the biggest social and emotional benefits of music for preschoolers through elementary school children include:
While creating a quality music education program is only one component of student achievement, it is a big step you can take toward creating a school community that prioritizes student growth and happiness. Music programs support kids and inspire them to learn as much as they can to be the best students they can be.
If you’re looking to improve your school’s academic success, begin with establishing a culture of dedicated staff who bring an authentic passion for learning to their students. If possible, create room in your school budget to financially support an enriching music program, as well as other programs and classes that foster fun, creative thinking.
Whether playing an instrument or taking singing lessons, learning music takes much patience and discipline. Kids in music programs will learn that not everything they do will be perfect on the first try, but that as they practice and put in effort, they’ll see themselves improve.
Learning music can also teach kids to create and follow practice schedules and focus on one task for the duration of their set practice times. In addition, learning how to read music is its own rewarding challenge that requires kids to study hard and make connections between written music notes, their instruments and the sounds they play.
Music program events like talent shows and concerts let kids perform on stage and show the world their skills. Kids receive a confidence boost by creating and performing the results of hard work they can be proud of. Performance opportunities may even help kids conquer their stage fright by learning how to turn their nervousness into positive, creative energy.
Even when not on stage, kids can still build confidence in their skills by playing among classmates and demonstrating their knowledge for teachers during class. Kids who consistently learn how to work through their performance anxiety and bravely share their talents can also have increased self-confidence in other areas of their lives.
Friendship and Teamwork
Sharing common interests is a great way for kids to make friends. Early childhood marks a time when kids are in school for the first time, learning to socialize with others and discovering exciting friendships. Being in a music class with other students who are excited to sing or play instruments is a great way for kids to make friends with people who like the same things they do.
Kids who share in the musical arts together will also learn to work together as a team. Many school music programs revolve around groups working together, such as all members of a chorus, band or orchestra playing different aspects of the same songs in unison and harmony. Kids learn the value of teamwork as they realize firsthand that working with a group and doing their part makes the best music.
Music can also help kids feel calm in other learning environments. Relaxing classrooms can improve kids’ focus and help them learn more easily. Teachers can create a serene environment by playing soothing music as kids work on independent activities. Teachers can also use music to help create a quiet corner, where kids can go to calm down and recenter themselves after a stressful moment.
Making music often involves tactile experiences, which can be grounding, and measured breathing, both of which are calming actions. Playing music or dancing to songs also gives kids a positive, controlled means of expressing their emotions, so they can learn constructive methods to respond to stressful experiences.
Playing music is an inherently emotional activity. One part of the brain that processes music is the amygdala, which is also the part of the brain that processes emotions. Different notes and combinations of notes evoke different emotions in people, which is how music can convey various tones and tell stories. Kids who learn how to make music and tell those different stories themselves through their voices or instruments are more attuned to recognizing when people express their own emotions through sounds and tone of voice.
Music education can also instill values of inclusion and social acceptance in kids from an early age. Music engagement in schools can decrease bullying by increasing kids’ self-esteem, self-awareness, cooperation, sense of belonging and communication skills, all of which counteract the common reasons why bullying takes place.
Kids who cultivate an appreciation for music from a young age and continue this endeavor through to adulthood might consider a music-related career. Starting young can help kids cultivate the skills they need to be successful musicians when they get older. Studying music instills in kids the discipline they need to help them navigate challenges while pursuing their passions.
Aiming for a career in the arts or earning an arts degree can also present opportunities beyond making music for a living. People who study music in higher education gain skills integral to success in a variety of industries, such as creative thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and time management.
Music in Sensory Play
Kids use their senses to explore the world around them. Even before they engage in language and self-awareness, babies and toddlers feel, hear, taste, smell and see stimuli. Growing kids need a range of new information to explore and respond to.
Creating and listening to music are sensory tasks. Sensory experiences at school, such as music classes, are integral to childhood development, and so are sensory aspects of play, where kids have even more freedom to explore their senses in creative ways.
Play is a perfect opportunity for spontaneous learning. When kids play, they rarely notice that they’re actually learning and growing as well. And, when kids create music, they’re engaging in a form of sensory play, receiving and using stimuli from their sense of hearing.
The benefits of music in sensory play include:
- Cognitive development: When kids listen to music or hear the laughs, wind and chirping birds on the playground, their brains store this information and strengthen these neural connections. Kids with auditory processing difficulties can also benefit from the sounds of sensory play that can help them grow more comfortable with harsh sounds and let them learn how to respond appropriately.
- Language development: Play often includes socializing with other kids, as well as the freedom for kids to vocalize their experiences. Music on its own helps strengthen language comprehension and speaking abilities, and combining it with free play lets kids practice speaking and develop their listening skills.
- Relaxation: Play involving music can help calm kids with sensory processing difficulties. Music often invites agitated kids to recenter their energies and bring their focuses back to soothing experiences, clearing their minds so they can better assess their situation. The repetitive, tactile motions of using musical playground equipment are also relaxing for many kids.
Examples of Musical Education in the Classroom
Music can help increase learning and provide a positive classroom environment. Consistently integrating appropriate, intentional music techniques into the classroom is a fun and effective way to enhance learning.
Some musical education elements to integrate into classroom learning include:
- Singing call-and-response songs
- Singing to memorize vocabulary words
- Clapping out different beats or clapping along to the beat of a song
- Singing songs with a variety of vocal ranges
- Playing musical Simon Says
- Making sounds to embellish a story being told
- Playing a guessing game with recorded popular songs
- Putting on a classroom talent show
- Making instruments from household objects
- Playing freeze dance
- Encouraging free play with simple classroom instruments
- Echoing short movement or musical phrases with dancing, singing or instruments
- Making up new lyrics to popular tunes
- Adding movements such as gestures or games to songs
- Playing background music during other class activities
When choosing songs to use for class activities, teachers should opt for ones with positive lyrics and stories. Positive words positively affect the brain, while negative words negatively affect the brain, especially for young kids. Giving kids uplifting words and stories to sing provides an empowering learning environment. Songs with silly words and rhyming phrases are most entertaining and accessible to young kids.
Incorporating Musical Playground Equipment
To help the kids in your community explore the benefits of musical play, add some musical instruments to your local playground. Playground instruments give kids the freedom to experiment with music and create new songs and sounds, as well as learn valuable skills outside the classroom. Kids can also easily incorporate instruments into their active play adventures, bringing new sounds to your park, school or neighborhood.
Let kids discover and cultivate a love of music with equipment such as:
- Conga drums: Kids can explore exciting percussion with colorful conga drums in a multitude of sizes for a variety of sounds.
- Chimes: Concerto chimes turn the playground into a beautiful oasis with tubes tuned to the traditional music scale and a rubber mallet to hit the resonating notes.
- Xylophones: Play a dainty melody on a sleek and colorful xylophone, complete with two attached mallets for playing all day long.
- Cabasas: Kids will love learning about a unique percussion instrument while striking up a tactile beat on the cabasas.
Choose musical playground equipment that kids of all abilities can access and enjoy. For instance, the conga drums and chimes are positioned so kids with wheelchairs can easily hit all the notes.
Contact a Miracle Recreation Representative
Music education for kids is an extremely beneficial aspect of any school or learning community. Emphasize the importance of learning music and appreciating the arts with playground elements kids can use to create their next musical masterpieces.
Here at Miracle Recreation, we believe in designing play spaces that prepare kids for future success. Playgrounds present the perfect opportunities for kids to express their interests, learn lifelong skills and let their imaginations grow.
Whether you’re looking to add music-making potential to your existing playground or build an all-new sensory play experience, Miracle Recreation is here to help. Contact us today to find your local representative and begin your journey to introducing your community to the power of play!