With the rise of the Internet and the proliferation of high-tech jobs that require computer skills, there seems to be less interest in music and arts education. Fortunately, while all this is happening, several studies by experts in the field are demonstrating that studying the arts — particularly music — can actually help develop skills necessary when learning about computers.
Several studies by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is based at Brown University, explored the effects of art and music education on young children’s learning. The conclusions of these studies support the theory that music instruction can help build intellectual and emotional skills, facilitate children’s learning and strengthen other academic areas, such as reading and math. Also, these studies indicate that music can positively affect children and adults of all ages.
The conclusions of these Brown University studies are consistent with other research on music and its effect on child development. One study (by researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the University of California) shows that when three and four-year-old children were given simple piano lessons over a six-month period, they performed 34% better than other children in IQ tests, some of whom had had computer lessons instead. These impressive results came from a study of 789 children from diverse social and economic backgrounds.
In an interview, one of the researchers from the University of California said: “Music training jump starts certain inherent patterns in parts of the brain responsible for spatial-temporal reasoning.” Computer lessons, on the other hand, do not force children to think ahead or visualize, as they must when playing a piece of music.
Several studies indicate that the reading level of students with one year of music was nearly one grade higher than their peers without such music training. Children with two years of music experience had scores equivalent to two years ahead of their reading age, and these statistics improved with music experience.
Research has shown that music touches at-risk children in special ways as well. Music introduced into their environment seems to make them more relaxed and receptive to learning.
Selecting Music for Children
When they are around three years old, most children begin to take a real interest in music activities of all kinds. It is a good time for parents and teachers to begin mixing music with games that require body movement, such as clapping, waving, jumping and dancing. Sing-along games are ideal for initiating movement and bringing children together in enjoyable group activities.
Children age four and five are more consistent music-makers and also are more aware of the messages in song lyrics. Children at this age are ready to sit attentively for a short performance or to listen to a short recording. Complementing the education given at school with music that teaches important lessons is recommended for this age group. Appropriate activities also include lessons in music appreciation, playing instruments and learning to write lyrics to simple melodies.
Children age six to ten can start learning that music has structure. Rhymes, repetition and experimenting with different sounds also can be used for speech and reading development. This is the ideal time to actively teach a child a musical instrument or expose them to choral groups. Research has indicated that children at this age will start showing the positive effects of music training in their academic performance.
Music has proven to provide many more benefits to children and adults than simple entertainment. It has even proven to help patients recover from diseases or surgery more quickly and with less pain. Much research currently is being undertaken to learn the effects of music on the mind and body, yet we now know from findings of several of the most prestigious researchers in the field that it can have very positive effects on child development.