The Benefits of Early Childhood Music Part 1

One of the greatest joys I’ve had this year has been my time spent teaching music to really young kids, aged 3-6. I never thought I’d end up teaching general music classes to preschool kids, not doing voice lessons with first graders, but the sheer joy and enthusiasm they have for making music and exploring their voices has been so rewarding!

Me teaching one of my junior kindergarten classes at Touchstone Academy back in September

I have seen so much growth in my young private students and also in the preschool and junior kindergarten students I have in general music classes. They become more engaged each time I’m there, their voices are getting stronger and they are singing so confidently, and have so much fun exploring music! Parents tell me time and time again “Little Joey has come home singing a song about ________ (bananas, a red wagon) every day lately! Did you teach that to him?” There is seriously no better feeling, knowing the joy of music is being carried home for these little ones. And not only is it overwhelmingly joy-filled, it’s hugely beneficial for their cognitive, physical and social development.

The benefits of music classes to the toddler and kinder age group are so outstanding I can’t imagine why any parent wouldn’t want their child to be a part of one. What shocks me though, is how little opportunity there is for that sort of thing around here. There are plenty of preschools, and a few kinder music opportunities, but really not much when you consider the amount of young families we have around here.

That’s why I’m so grateful to be a part of the Touchstone Academy, a school that promotes “Extraordinary Education” and is the single most supportive place I’ve ever worked as an arts educator. It is so clear they value music education and the benefits it gives to the students. I see all seven of their classes one morning a week, and have been given the great opportunity to develop a program that begins with the preschool classes, to junior kindergarten, right up to grade five. The culture of music and joy in this school is amazing, and it’s the first time I’ve been able to be part of such a community and I am so grateful.

It really makes me wonder why preschools all over don’t include a proper music curriculum in their programs. The inclusion of one would be setting their students up for so much success and help them exponentially in their development as well as with their imagination, creativity and motor skills.

So much so, this blog post got a little lengthy!

So, I’ve decided to break it up. Behold, part 1!

Increased IQ & Neural Activity

Do you remember the posters in every music classroom back in the day stating “Music makes you smarter?” I sure do, and guess what… it is not false advertising! There have been so many studies done that compare test results of students with music lessons, drama lessons and those with neither. While the drama students had different benefits, the studies ultimately proved that the music students had higher results. The reason is that making music forces you to use multiple parts of the brain simultaneously, even at a young age.

Consider playing an instrument- you’re moving the coordination of parts of the body, counting meters and rhythms, worrying about phrasing, words if you’re singing, memory recall- there is so much going on, even if you’re just singing a song with basic hand actions! Changes literally become evident in the brain networks according to the Dana Foundation.

I love watching the little ones figure out how instruments work. They are capable of far more than we think!

Imagine the positive results this could have on the academic performance of a child who begins music classes at age 2 or 3?!

A study done in 2007 at the University of Kansas by Christopher Johnson showed that students who attended schools that had established music programs scored 22% higher in English and 20% higher in math on standardized tests than those at schools with a limited music program.

Convinced yet?

Memory Recall & Concentration

We all sing - whether it’s a tune on the radio gets stuck in our head, a jingle or advertisement, the ABCs or the brush your teeth song, even the national anthem or Happy Birthday! When we do this we are using memory recall for the melody and the lyrics.

Students who do this on a regular basis, whether singing or playing an instrument, demonstrate an increase in their recall ability, especially when it comes to facts learned audibly.

Consider too, mnemonic devices- who hasn’t learned a song at one point in their life to help them remember facts for a test? Because it works!

This attributes in part to the increase in test results mentioned above, as does student concentration. It takes focus to make music, and just like we exercise muscles, when we do this often the strength to do so increases.

Language Skills & Cultural Awareness

When we encourage young children to sing, we are not only teaching them about music, but also about the language within the song. It activates the left brain function and teaches them new vocabulary, sentence structure, and helps them to practice pronunciation and speaking the words in general!

Music and language are so closely married when it comes to cultural identity too. This fact will help students create their identity, regardless of what culture they are a part of- consider Irish jigs or traditional Chinese music. They are innately a part of the cultures they come from, and there is no mistaking who they represent!

From an educational standpoint, this makes teaching about different cultures so exciting and engaging too! Just yesterday I taught a group of Senior Kindergarten and first graders a traditional song from Ghana complete with a dance. It wasn’t in English and guess what? They were so animated and inspired! They asked me to do it “again, again!” no less than four times. It was amazing. People seriously underestimate what these little ones can do!

Motor Skills & Coordination

So much of early childhood music has to do with movement. Consider fingerplay songs, or circle games, action songs or even beatful actions like patting knees or clapping your hands; they all encourage coordination and development of major and fine motor movements. For slightly older children, this comes in the form of playing instruments- basic drumming, piano, fingering on a violin, guitar or ukulele, finger positions on a recorder, clarinet or flute- it all works!

Now, believe me there is so much more! What I can cover here really is just a sampling of the plethora of reasons why all children should have a musical education in the early years. That said, I do have some more! Stay tuned over the next week for part 2!

Until then, keep finding you voice and let it sing!

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