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The Benefits of Music for Young Children
It is clear that music and children just seem to go hand in hand. You only have to look at any nursery, playgroup or kindergarten classroom where musical activity is talking place, to notice a sea of smiles or giggles as the children play or sing. But apart from the natural enjoyment that babies, toddlers and preschoolers seem to get from musical activities, does it actually benefit them in some way? Research has shown that young children do in fact benefit greatly from exposure to musical activity since young ages, and that it can even support their overall development and well-being.
Without a doubt, exposure to music and musical activities has been proven to aid brain development and cognitive abilities in young children. Simply listening to music, playing an instrument or singing along, helps babies and young children to make additional connections in the brain, which are later useful for many learning and intellectual functions.
Participation in musical activities of any kind (whether it is singing or playing an instrument) can help improve memory and learning skills by stimulating a more complicated pattern of brain development. In fact, research has shown that children who are exposed to music since early childhood on a regular basis, tend to develop better study habits in later life, perhaps because their brains are better “organized” due to these connections. Music also stimulates sections of the brain that are used for reading and math skills later on, or even the ability to learn a foreign language.
There is no doubt that some individuals even relate better to what they are learning or experiencing when music is involved, especially in the case of children who have a highly developed musical intelligence or sensitivity to music and rhythm. In many cases, some children can concentrate more and actually learn better in musical environments. Contact with music can also help young children to develop their creativity. Musical activities where a child has to change the words of a song, describe what they are hearing or draw a picture to illustrate it, all allow them to express themselves and their emotions related to the music.
Music is certainly relaxing for many babies and children. Experts generally agree that babies should be exposed to short bouts of classical music or lullabies every day, in order to help them relax, feel soothed and lower stress that they may experience. Similarly toddlers and preschoolers should be exposed to as many different music forms and musical experiences as possible as music can provide an important emotional outlet for many children.
Playing any kind of an instrument can also help children to express themselves and develop positive self-esteem and self-confidence.
Musical activities can teach toddlers and preschoolers a great deal of social skills that they will need in later life. Particularly when they take part in group musical activities, children learn about sharing, turn taking, teamwork, patience, discipline and the need to follow instructions. When young children work together in this way, they are interacting with others and learning to listen, which can later translate into listening to others or evaluating others feelings in a broader social situation. No matter how well a child sings or how developed their sense of rhythm or co-ordination is, participating in these kinds of activities truly helps them to understand and take on board these important social skills.
Contact with music also helps babies, toddlers and preschoolers to strengthen their gross and fine motor skills. At different developmental stages young children are constantly developing their abilities to move with co-ordination and rhythm and to balance themselves with poise. So musical activities that allow them to manipulate instruments, move around or dance, bounce, clap, sway or jump or contribute to successful motor development. And as the ear is designed to co-ordinate bodily balance and co-ordination, what better way to achieve these goals than through interaction with music.