Teachers have known for years that music plays an important role in the development of children. Research is now backing it up.
Researchers have found the first evidence that young children who take music lessons show different brain development and improved memory over the course of a year compared to children who do not receive musical training.
Not only do the brains of musically-trained children respond to music in a different way to those of the untrained children, but the training improves their memory as well. After one year the musically trained children performed better in a memory test that was correlated with general intelligence skills such as literacy, verbal memory, visuo-spatial processing, mathematics and standardised IQ scores. This research also found that the verbal intelligence of 4 to 6 year-olds rises after only one month of musical training!
In a similar study, research indicated that during the early developmental years, children's brain neurons are being "wired". This provides a window of opportunity which must not be missed if children are to achieve their full potential. Circuits in different regions of the brain mature at different times. As a result, different circuits are most sensitive to life's experiences at different ages.
Neurological studies have also shown that early music training, on any instrument, is correlated with greater verbal IQ and language acquisition. This echoes the results of a recent study of second graders, which found the reading skills of those who received structured musical training were superior to those of their peers. Such research suggests cutting music education to concentrate on “the basics” is based on a misunderstanding of the way young minds work.
Children between the ages of 6 and 12 who had years of experience reading music were also found to have greater mathematical ability than non-musical children. This is no surprise, as the temporal lobe of the brain, responsible for memory and rapid problem solving, is actively engaged when solving a formula AND when playing an instrument. Musical training encourages plasticity and the growth of neural pathways in the brain that affect a child’s life in almost every way.
Aside from brain function and intelligence, learning an instrument can be a great way to improve your child’s social skills and communication with their peers, while also providing them with a positive creative outlet and a way of dealing with their emotions.
The result of all these studies? Used positively and therapeutically, music is extremely beneficial in the regulation of emotions (mood, affect), physiology (blood pressure, heart rate) and can even re-pattern the neurological structure of the brain to improve general and verbal IQ, mathematical ability, memory and performance.
The research is clear - Start them on an instrument today!
MacLachlan, S. (2009). Memory for the Recall of Popular Songs: A Comparative Study of Musicians and Nonmusicians.
Trainor, L., & Fujioka, T. (2006). First Evidence hat Musical Training Affects Brain Development in Young Children.
Aiello, R., & Sloboda, A. (1994). Music performance: Expression and the Development of Excellence.