Fun With Benefits
Whether dancing around the living room on a rainy day or singing along to the radio, school-age kids love listening to — and participating in — music. And there are loads of good reasons to encourage this enthusiasm. Research shows that kids who are actively involved in music (who play it or sing it regularly):
- score higher in math and reading
- learn coordination, goal-setting, concentration, and cooperation
- excel in math and science because of development in reasoning and cognitive skills
- experience less conflict with friends/peers and have higher sense of self-esteem
- have a higher chance of attending college
One study showed that students age 7-9 who were given keyboard training while also using math software scored higher on proportional math and fractions tests than students who used the software alone. Also, students who have been involved in public school music programs, on average, score higher on their SATs than those who don’t. But the best reason to encourage a love of music can be as simple as its fun and allows parents and kids to spend quality time together.
Exposing Your Child to Music
Listening to an array of music improves a child’s ability to analyze and comprehend it. The early elementary years are the perfect time to expose kids to everything from classical to country. Most are open to experiencing many musical styles until around the third grade, when they start to prefer popular music. (Studies have also shown that kids in grades four and up prefer music with a faster tempo. To feed this need and still expand their abilities, find different international styles (salsa, chalga, aboriginal) of music with up tempo which will help develop their ear for other languages and other less popular styles of music.
Fill your child’s life with as much music as you can. Some ideas on how you can incorporate a larger music emphasis on your family’s lives are:
- Put an iPod stereo with rotating playlists in your child’s room. Work with them to create a playlist of familiar and new types of music to help expand their appreciation for different music genres and styles
- A musical alarm clock or clock radio can help your child wake up musically. Many stereos have timers that let kids drift off to music as well. Certain songs can serve as cues for your child (for instance, one song you always play or sing in the morning when it’s time to get ready for school).
- iTunes also offers free downloads every week with samples from newly released albums from around the world.
- Introduce kids to songs from your own childhood or music you especially love. Who was your favorite band growing up? Your favorite musical?
- As cliché as it sounds, singing in the car is another great way of exposing your kids to music…and it does not hurt to have a little fun! Show tunes are my favorite for car singing.
- Make or buy musical instruments and have them available in your child’s play area.
- Cook to music, clean to music, and take some time just to sit and listen and discuss as an activity.
- Try music-making computer software programs that let kids lay down their own tracks, just like a professional. Apple offers a user-friendly program called Garage Band that allows artists to create new songs from loops and program instruments. If your child already plays an instrument, they can record themselves directly into the program and add sound effects and layer other instruments with their live recordings.
- Form your own family band with real or improvised instruments (spoons, makeshift drums, etc.). This is a good group activity for kids to try with friends. And if all else fails play RockBand!
Most kids are ready for formal music instruction between ages 5 and 7. The piano is a logical and great place to start. Kids who learn keyboarding skills also learn the fundamental musical concepts needed for other instruments and vocal music. String instruments are another good place to begin. Brass or wind instruments can be more physically challenging and may not be appropriate until the fourth or fifth grade.
Questions before starting lessons:
- Playing musical instruments makes physical demands on kids. Does your child have the appropriate physical development and fine motor control to play an instrument or sing? (A good music teacher can help determine a child’s physical readiness.)
- Can your child focus on one thing for 20-30 minutes?
- Does he or she understand and comprehend letters and numbers?
- Has your child had adequate musical exposure? Can he or she keep a steady beat, identify incorrect notes in a familiar song, and repeat basic rhythm and pitch patterns? (If the answer is no, work on these skills before beginning formal lessons.) Music programs offer programs for parents and their babies.
- Are you able to commit to taking your child to lessons on a regular basis?
- Are you willing to ensure that your child does her music homework and practices on a regular basis?
Your child can get music instruction at school but should also get basic instruction in reading music, writing music, and understanding music theory. Some great after school programs that offer music programs for children of all ages are: Music Together, the Patel Conservatory, Music Showcase, Marcia P. Hoffman Institute for the Performing Arts and the Miami Children’s Theater, Primrose School of Lutz.
Researchers now think that music may predate language in human development. So whether your child becomes a concert pianist or simply enjoys singing in the shower, encourage that love of music!
For more info visit: www.kidshealth.org