by Todd McFliker
Decades of research confirms what many mothers and fathers already know: music can play a significant role in a child’s development. Music promotes children’s overall growth and aptitude for learning. Music education can help children become more successful in school and grow up to be more productive adults. From the time a baby sings the “ABC song” and claps along with “Sesame Street,” music is already an essential part of our education. Most youngsters naturally have a love for music. It can stimulate creativity and alter a child’s mood. Research has proven the powerful connection between practicing music and successful children.
“Piano is thought to enhance the brain’s hardwiring for spatial-temporal reasoning,” explained Gordon Shaw, Ph.D. in a recent interview by Lauren Slater of Parenting. The professor emeritus of physics continued, “Music involves ratios, fractions, proportions, and thinking in time and space.”
Leonardo da Vinci, Plato, Aristotle, Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein all have one important thing in common: they grew up playing musical instruments. Studies are revealing fascinating insights into music’s impact stimulating a child’s overall intelligence and emotional development. Dozens of schools and labs, such as the International Foundation of Music Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio, have reported on the benefits of music on early brain development. Referred to as the Mozart Effect, there is a positive effect that passive listening to certain classical music has on one’s cognitive abilities, reasoning and motor skills.
Study after study, like Dr. James Catterall’s ten years of work performed at UCLA, indicate that children who learn music do better all around in academic testing. Music training was found to jump start certain inherent patterns in parts of the brain responsible for spatial-temporal reasoning. As a result, playing a certain piece of music forces children to think ahead and visualize notes in their heads.
In 2009, Social Science Quarterly reported on a study that showed that a child’s music lessons and attending concerts has a beneficial effect on his or her reading and mathematics in early adolescence. Possessing the skills to create complex rhythms makes for better planning and coordinating in a student’s educational and professional careers. He or she can make faster and more precise corrections in many situations. Musicians have even demonstrated less test and performance anxiety than non-music students.
In a Scottish study, elementary students achieved a significant increase in reading test scores after receiving musical training for six months. The Texas Commission on Drug and Alcohol Abuse indicates that students who took an active part in band or orchestra have the lowest use alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
Studies by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, based at Brown University, concluded that music education can help build intellectual and emotional skills, as well as strengthen reading and math. These results are seen in academic and professional scenarios for people of all ages.
The research results of music’s effects of adults in not much different. “Music making makes the elderly healthier,” reported Dr. Frederick Tims of Michigan State University. “There were significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and loneliness following keyboard lessons. These are factors that are critical in coping with stress, stimulating the immune system, and in improved health.”
The marketplace is full of inventive toys, videos and baby equipment that play popular nursery rhymes or classical music for newborns. Who knows, you may have the next Hendrix or Einstein living in your house?
Todd McFliker is an award-winning reporter, photographer, and the author of All You Need is Love to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. He earned his Masters in Communication from Lynn University.