Take a musical note

This year, one of my son’s 4-H projects was a Guitar Pick Shadow Box. It was a need that was fostered from two things: his love of music and concerts, combined with his ability to lose things easily. His collection of guitar picks ranges from rock and roll to country, and continues to grow. Each new guitar pick brings new excitement and then quickly finds its way to the shadow box. We have taught our children to love and appreciate all types of music. However, little did I know, just how beneficial music is.

Did you know?

• Music improves the cognitive and non-cognitive skills more than twice as much as sports and dance;

• Music can increase class participation;

• Music can lower dropout rates in High School;

• Music can produce higher test scores in English and math;

• Music teaches us better problem solving skills;

• Music helps us switch from one task to another with ease; and

• Music can help improve SAT scores.

Music in early childhood development

There are many benefits to musical experiences in early childhood. First it can stimulate brain development, particularly in the areas of language and reading. Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words. Music also helps develop intellectual, social and emotional, language, and overall literacy skills that are critical to kindergarten readiness. Finally, it helps the large and fine motor skills when the body and the mind work together, while allowing them to practice self-expression.

Infants can recognize the melody of a song long before they understand the words. They often try to mimic sounds and start moving to the music as soon as they are physically able. Quiet, background music can be soothing for infants, especially at sleep time. Try making up one or two lines about bathing, dressing, or eating to sing to them while you do these activities.

Toddlers love to dance and move to music. The key to toddler music is the repetition of songs, which encourages the use of words and memorization. Try singing a familiar song and inserting a silly word in the place of the correct word, like “Mary had a little grasshopper” instead of lamb. Let them reproduce rhythms by clapping or tapping objects.

Preschoolers enjoy singing just to be singing. They aren’t self-conscious about their ability and most are eager to let their voices roar. They like songs that repeat words and melodies, use rhythms with a definite beat, and ask them to do things. https://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/e-family-news/2010-music-and-children-rhythm-meets-child-development

Our kids play a trumpet, a French horn, the piano, and guitar. These instruments were their choice, and they continue to excel at them each day. Although I would encourage children to play some instrument, it is certainly not the only option. I would encourage you to expose your children to different types of music at different times of the day. Consider building a digital album of family favorite songs or attend local concerts.

Looking back, one of the first “concerts’ I took my daughter was to a group called the Doodlebops. As silly as they were, the music taught my daughter to laugh, dance, and sing like no one is watching. Then again, isn’t that the point?

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Carrie Kube is a director for Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board. All thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the author and not the board and/or its community partners.