We’re all aware, on some level, of how good learning music is for children. But despite how instinctively we might feel this is true, how exactly is it so? Can music be proven to be beneficial to children’s development? Has it been proven?
Well, the short answer is: yes. There have been many studies that have shown us how learning music can help children develop, academically, socially, culturally and linguistically.
1) Academic Development
Studies have shown that structured music lessons enhance reasoning, memory, planning and inhibition in children. All of these lead to an increase in academic performance.
A study over 2.5 years, including music lessons and visual arts classes, showed that the cognitive skills children developed in music lessons were then carried over to their other subjects, leading to a better understanding and an overall improved performance.
As well as this, researchers have suggested that music lessons may enhance a motivation to learn, as practice, self-discipline and the mastery of complex skills are all a part of the process.
2) Social and Emotional Development
Music can also help children to develop more healthily on a social and emotional level.
As music connects children who may otherwise have nothing in common, a bond is created which encourages and enables them to socialise. Not only this, but actively participating in making music gives children a confidence that it’s difficult to otherwise achieve. This confidence, gained from the ownership they take over developing their musical skills, can in turn attract friends. Children respond to confident children.
Emotionally, music gives children a healthy way to express themselves. When they can’t find the words, the music can do the talking. This is extremely beneficial for children who are in need of something therapeutic.
3) Cultural Development
Learning music also boosts children’s cultural awareness. As they explore music from different countries and cultures, they absorb a bit of a completely different life and cultivate a respect for that.
As children learn about the instruments and songs from other cultures, a curiosity and open-mindedness about a world beyond their own is nurtured. This is important for both their social skills and their quality of life.
4) Linguistic Development
As well as the reasoning, memory, planning and inhibition skills music can develop, it plays a large part in linguistic development in children.
In a study of 74 nursery children, a third of whom had weekly piano training, a third of whom received extra reading and a third who received no additional intervention, the piano learning group showed significantly higher ability to notice changes in speaking tone as well as pitch. This musical training improved the children’s ability to process language, due to their increased understanding of musical pitch.
An increased ability to process language, to understand what has been said, lends itself to better communication skills, academic skills and, again, a better quality of life.
Music gives our children much more than just a cultural, artistic boost. Although those things are valuable in themselves, music lessons have so much more to offer for our children. The academic benefits of reasoning, memory and discipline, social and cultural benefits of self-expression and awareness of others, combined with a better ability to process language can all have an enormous impact on a child’s life.
Although the current educational climate doesn’t value music as highly as it has done historically, it doesn’t have to be forever, and it doesn’t have to be for you. Music lessons might not be the only route to an eagerness to learn, a sharp memory and a keen, cultural acceptance, but they’re certainly one of the most enjoyable ways of getting there.