Banging a drum, shaking a maraca, or just beating a wooden spoon on a saucepan: young children love to make music. It’s fun, albeit noisy, to see our children engaged in creative musical activities, enjoying their time, and entertaining their family members.

However, did you know that music-making is of enormous long-term benefit to your children? Music helps develop a wide range of skills. So much so that experienced nursery teachers would argue that music-making in the early years is vital for healthy child development. This is why you’ll find it features so prominently in the learning programs for toddlers in nursery schools. 

5 Effects of music on child development

Here are some of the most interesting ways music-making helps in child development:

1. It can boost brain development

A five-year study by neuroscientists at the University of Southern California found evidence that suggests that learning music in childhood can make a positive difference in brain development. The neuroscientists used MMR, EEG, and behavioral testing to measure and compare brain development across two groups, one receiving musical training and another age-matched control group which did not.

After just two years, the musical group was found to have faster maturing auditory systems. It is this part of the brain that influences language development, reading ability and communication skills. The benefits for those children that received music lessons are clear. 

In fact, there is so much evidence that music is connected with brain development that a new branch of science, neuromusicology, is dedicated to furthering knowledge in this area. It is thought that music can stimulate all areas of the brain, even just by listening to it. Neuromusicologists at Colorado State University are furthering research from other studies that demonstrate that music can “stimulate complex cognitive, affective, and sensorimotor processes in the brain.” 

2. It enhances children’s creativity

Music gives children a chance to express themselves and get creative. We need to encourage the younger generations to be creative. Creative skills are so important. Being creative means being able to think flexibly which can significantly help in life and work. Creative people are problem solvers and have the confidence to try out new ideas and find solutions. These are skills that will always be required and are very much in demand. 

3. It helps develop social skills

Whatever culture you come from or live in, music will be important. Making music and enjoying music are things that bring communities together all over the world. People both express themselves and connect with others through music. Nurturing a love of music at an early age can help your child forge positive connections with others for the rest of their lives. 

For young children, music-making alongside peers in a nursery school or at home with caregivers is one of their first experiences of teamwork, of the value of working together to make something beautiful. As your child develops, they will be increasingly aware of others in the group and their vital skills in cooperation will be fostered. 

4. It boosts children’s physical development

Music can really encourage toddlers to get moving. This will help with their muscle development and strength. It will also help their gross motor skills, i.e. the coordination of big movements like jumping and hopping. 

Encourage your child to dance and move along to the music as much as possible: you’ll be helping them exercise and be fit and healthy, too. 

4. It gives kids a confidence boost

Learning and then performing music can really help children express themselves. The sense of achievement they get from others enjoying their music can give them a real confidence boost. 

As they get older, studying an instrument can help them learn to overcome difficulties and frustrations, and appreciate the rewards of perseverance, too. This can really help with self-esteem.

Toddlers, too young to begin instrumental tuition, can  be encouraged to take an  interest in music, which will later inspire them to choose an instrument to master. 

How you can help

Encouraging music at home is valuable to your child’s education and future. 

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Shop for musical instruments and collate a box full of simple musical instruments that your child can easily access, i.e bells, shakers, drums, rain sticks, and tambourines. 
  • Make homemade instruments with your child, like shakers from dried beans and yogurt containers taped together. 
  • Attend a toddler music or dance class. 
  • Sing along to favorite toddler nursery rhymes at home as often as possible. 
  • Listen to lots of music in a variety of styles and from different cultures together. Talk about how the music makes each of you feel. And dance around to it.  
  • Go out and listen to live music together. 
  • Ensure they attend a good nursery school that includes lots of music in their curriculum.  

Above all, the most important thing your child needs from you is the time, space, and opportunity to listen to and make music.

About Ayesha Hoda

Ayesha Hoda is a marketing and communications specialist working at Step By Step Nursery Group in the UAE. She holds an MBA degree from a leading business school in Pakistan and has more than 13 years of experience in corporate communications and journalism. She has worked in both agency and client-side roles, designing communication strategies for multinational clients, nonprofits and small businesses in various industries, such as education and healthcare.

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