Young Parents Team
How does learning to play a musical instrument help my child’s academic performance?
We ask Dr Carol Loy, the curriculum director for Kinderland, which is known for its preschool music curriculum.
Learning music, especially playing the keyboard, is important in contributing to a well-rounded early childhood education. Research has shown that music affects brain development in various ways:
1. Singing and music stimulate the various senses and help in developing language skills. A paper by Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and University of Maryland, College Park, found that “infants listen first to sounds of language and, only later, to its meaning”. By repeating sounds associated with words, they remember vocabulary and basic parts of speech.
2. Playing music helps improve concentration skills and develops self-confidence. These are essential attributes that can be transferred to formal learning, which, in turn, improve cognitive ability.
3. Music develops listening, reading and writing skills. Recent research from Northwestern University in the United States found that playing an instrument developed stronger “neurophysiological distinction” required to tell the difference between similar words like “bill” and “pill”, a key skill in learning to read.
4. Music enhances individual development by helping children have better self-control, higher self-esteem and confidence. It is often a team effort. By providing them with a variety of instruments, including some from a range of cultures, they are encouraged to create music together and explore how the instruments work. These musical activities help develop friendships, as well as sense a of appreciation of other cultures.
5. Music is also a physical activity. Children’s physical (motor) skills are enhanced – be it the use of muscles in the lips to form words in a song, small muscles of the hands when holding and playing with rhythmic instruments or finger play, or large muscles in the legs and arms as they move to the music.