How Music Can Help Your Child
If you cite teamwork, discipline, coordination and focus as skills children can learn through activities, parents may think you mean sports.
Yet music yields these benefits and more, experts say, as well as brain growth that can lead to better grades. A flute or a bow or a drumstick may be just as fine an instrument of success as a bat or ball or racquet.
"Singing, moving, playing, listening and creating are concrete experiences that are more than just seeing things," says Linda Page Neelly, Ph.D., of the University of Connecticut.
What's in play with music? Hearing, language, learning, emotion, physical effort and social skill. Working in that range can help grow new pathways in the brain, says Dr. Neelly, chief content adviser to "Sesame Street Music Works."
In short, a hands-on role in music helps kids learn better. Research backs that up:
A study of preschoolers by the University of California at Irvine showed that those who studied piano did 34 percent better on tests of space and time skills than those who learned computers.
A study of Rhode Island first-graders found that those in a music program had better attitudes toward learning and raised their reading and math scores.
A study of New Mexican high schoolers found that those who took instrumental music for two years or more scored higher on basic-skill tests than students who did not take music.
Experts say that when we learn and play music, we build the skills we need to read, listen, anticipate, forecast, recall and concentrate. All aid abstract thinking and problem solving.
Brain scans show music uses much more of the brain than a lot of us might think. Donald Hodges, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says music connects the neurological dots not just in one area but "all over the brain, in the left and the right, in the top and the bottom, in the front and the back."
But it would be wrong, he adds, to view music as mere icing on the cake of life. "It's there as a central core property of what it means to be a human being," he says.