Article by Dr. Christobel Llewellyn
Children instinctively enjoy music and that is why it is a perfect medium for inspiring learning in a whole host of areas. The best way for anyone to learn is voluntarily through rewarding activity. This is where music can really come into its own.
For 2 to 5 year olds, singing songs, making music together with different instruments and dancing around are all too much fun to be thought of as learning tools! However, the fact remains that music activities can provide a central core of intelligence for the development of basic skills right across the board.
All areas of the government's "Desirable Learning Outcomes", on which most schools around the world base their curriculum and which also form the basis of the Basic Skills Test here, are addressed in some form by music-related activities.
This means that activities and games involving music are not only highly enjoyable for children and adults alike, but can be beneficial for child development in areas including reading, mathematics and science as well as social and personal development.
As a group activity, music really takes-off. Children with little else in common can form fruitful relationships when it comes to playing together with musical instruments . In a pre-school setting, group activities such as singing or playing circle games, where children pass round an instrument or clap rhythms, help to develop social skills like taking turns, working together and sharing.
These are skills which don't come naturally and this is a rewarding and enjoyable way to practice these. Sharing enjoyable experiences through music like playing games, singing and dancing can also help strengthen bonds between children and their adults.
On a more personal level, these activities can help instill a sense of self-confidence while encouraging children to listen closely and be ready to respond. Music activities also give pre-school children the opportunity to find out that music can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of age or ability.
Hearing music from other countries is a good place to start in building awareness and respect for cultures other than our own. Recent research has also shown that moving to music by dancing and doing actions to songs can help with brain development and memory.
Language and Literacy
Music activities help develop communication skills. Singing and chanting repetitive songs and rhymes all help build up confidence in using language while helping children to remember new words. It gives first experiences of language structures such as phrasing in sentences and syllables within words.
Listening to music and talking about how it sounds and how it makes you feel is also a great opportunity to discover new words and to use them in descriptive ways. Listening carefully to different types of sounds made by different objects is a good way to build up the skill of concentrated listening and the ability to discriminate between sounds. These are essential when it comes to learning and using language.
Music is itself a non-verbal language of its own which has the power to communicate emotions, sometimes very powerfully. For children to experience this by hearing music and by playing instruments lets them investigate forms of communication which their limited verbal skills do not allow.
This is a good introduction to the communicative potential of language. Relating sounds to symbols that can be drawn on paper and sequencing them from left to right in response to rhythms they make, is also a good foundation for reading and writing skills.
Maths doesn't escape music-time! For instance, counting songs can help to clarify the sequence of numbers. Recognising and recreating rhythmic patterns is a skill closely related to mathematical concepts.
If children are given the opportunity to compare, sort and match different kinds of sounds, such as those made by homemade shakers, this can help introduce and develop the concept of mathematical sets. Different rhythms are divided into a variety of beats closely linked to fractions, addition and subtraction.
The process of making homemade instruments can also be a good introduction to Maths. Measuring and counting out materials and dealing with objects of different shapes are all mathematical practices.
Knowledge and understanding of the world. When it comes to a knowledge and understanding of the world, pre-school children already seem to know a lot! However, showing young children the excitement and rewards of being inquisitive by a process of example, will provide a sure foundation for a child's own self-motivated learning throughout his or her educational career. Music activities provide plenty of good opportunities to foster the joy of finding things out.
For instance, manipulating everyday objects to see what noises can be made, or putting a piece of paper to the lips and speaking in different ways to feel the air vibrations that make sounds. Making instruments out of unlikely materials: a drum out of a flower pot, a triangle out of spoons, a xylophone from bottles. These are all exciting ways to find out about the world, with the bonus of a musical reward!
Listening to the music of other times and places can also lead on to finding out more about people of a particular country or period in history and perhaps a search in the local library for some pictures! Music can bring a child's investigations to life.
Young children's physical development is addressed in several ways by music-related activities. Dancing and moving around to music develops a spatial awareness while also practising coordination and muscle control. It helps children to 'feel' the rhythms of music through their bodies, something which is also important when instruments are played. Playing instruments and making sounds with the body, such as clapping or tapping, helps develop fine motor skills in the hands and fingers while also defining relationships between sound and physical movement.
A major area of child development, and one which is often overlooked, is creativity. The use of imagination and the ability to communicate and express ideas and feelings is very well served by musical activities. Listening to music and generating personal responses either verbally or through movement or by making pictures, can all be good ways for children to recognise and express their emotions. Playing and 'composing' with instruments gives children a command over levels of expression they simply don't possess verbally. These creative 'outlets' are important for the growth of a child's self-esteem, self-confidence and general emotional well-being… all things which can greatly help a child's development in all other areas of life.
Music and its related activities can bring together all aspects of balanced development. As well as having all of these benefits, it paves the way for a lifetime's enjoyment of music and most would agree this makes a happier and healthier society.
Article contributed by Dr Christobel Llewellyn
ATCL, LRAM, BA,LLB, M.Mus, PhD
Founder of Kinderjazz
Check out the jazz CDs by Kinderjazz from GoKids Online store.