Music is an incredibly powerful force for good throughout the planet, and the many benefits of music on human minds have been studied and documented for decades. But how can music specifically have a positive impact on the development, happiness and well-being of children? Ah, I’m so glad you asked! I thought it might be nice to explore some of the ways that music can help you have a happier, healthier, and even smarter child. Be sure to add your own thoughts or ideas in the comments and share with your friends and loved ones!
Studies have shown that infants start recognizing melodies and rhythms and try to move along with music before they even learn how to speak! Try incorporating silly made-up songs into every day activities like bath-time and feeding time to help your infant be calm throughout these routines and develop a sense of familiarity and comfort that comes along with rhythm and melody. These moments will become the first memorable musical events in your child’s life.
While infants do not have the ability to respond to music on an emotional level like older children and adults, a recent study conducted by Laurel J. Trainor at the McMaster University Department of Psychology shows that babies have musical preferences. Six month old infants showed preference toward consonant intervals as opposed to dissonant intervals. While adults may prefer music with dissonant tones that create interest or suspense, infants turn away from this type of music, which shows us that at even a very young age, music causes valuable and telling basic human responses.
Music expands the mind! And that’s not just a saying that a music teacher writes in chalk on the board at the front of their class— it’s science! Studies of the brain show that music can help foster creative bursts of thought and expand the mind to take in more information about the world. And that’s what being a kid is all about— being creative and learning about the world around them.
Fostering musical creativity in grades two through four is especially important according to the Development of Music Creativity among Elementary School Students study from Midwestern State University. Eighty-nine randomly selected children in grades two, four, and six were given the Vaughan Test of Musical Creativity and the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking. Results show that students in grades two through four undergo a music and creativity growth spurt, while students in grades four through six level off significantly.
As young kids age into becoming preteens and teenagers, self-consciousness and lack of self-confidence can become a struggle. Instilling a comfort with singing, dancing, and playing simple instruments from a young age will help kids feel comfortable and confident later on by giving them something that they’re familiar and experienced with. Kids who sing, dance or play instruments are emboldened by their confidence to expand outward in other exciting ways, too.
Listening to music during the teenage years is another important way that kids express themselves, connect with each other, and unwind. Two Finnish scientists interviewed a group of adolescents to learn how they use music to improve their mood. The subjects noted their use of music to revitalize them in the morning, provide a sense of calm in the evening, distract their minds from unpleasant thoughts, and gain insights about their feelings by using music in a reflective state.
Think back to when you were a kid. Remember how often you would call up your buddy to talk about how awesome the new album by so-and-so was and how you would listen to it together on your boombox (or record player, for older readers…)? This bonding over music is what makes music so truly magical— its a social experience, defined by people uniting over their shared love for beautiful art.
This kind of bonding happens during practice and performance as well. Is there any unit of people closer than a band? Their ability to work together to produce music that expresses their vision to the world is nothing short of miraculous. From anonymous garage bands to world famous groups of touring artists, collaborating and cooperating with others while sharing a common passion for music and creativity provides a valuable bond.
There are few things on earth that can bring us together like music can, which is the greatest lesson I learned from traveling around the world playing my piano. Bringing that joy to the children in our life is one of the greatest gifts we can give them, and will help them appreciate the joys and beauty of music well into adulthood. That’s the power of music.