by Deborah Torres Patel
Much has been written about the study of music improving IQ, enhancing
memory, and generally making a smarter child. There are multitudes of
arguments about how specific or measurable the influence of music is on
the brain, whether the "Mozart Effect" holds any weight, and how much music
should or should not be included in a school's curriculum. However, nearly
everyone who has ever spoken on the topic of music education agrees that
music has the power to enhance learning.
Research indicates that musical children do better at reading, writing,
math, language, and have a higher level of concentration and spatial
reasoning than children not exposed to music have. Music can also provide
a myriad of oral language benefits from grammar and pronunciation to quickly
picking up rhythm and accents in first or second language study. It can
build social and emotional skills, decrease performance anxiety, assist
motor development, and boost creativity. Additionally, solo music
performance has been known to increase self-capacity and self-esteem.
Most experts agree that the best time for developing musical aptitude
is between birth and nine years old. It is generally agreed upon that
studying music before the age of seven can have a long-term effect on a
child's overall development.
All children have musical ability. When music is playing, it can easily
capture a young child's attention especially if it is related to an activity
that involves other family members. Parent's can take an active role in
fostering the musical growth of their kids by exposing them to a variety
of musical skills. Even if parents are non-musical they can still make
a difference by making music a part of the family's daily life.
Musical intelligence can be divided into five categories.
- The ability to sing in tune, in harmony, and with a
confident voice can be developed with frequent and consistent practice.
Tips ages 1-3
Tips ages 3-6
Sing with or to your children
Play games that involve music and movement and act out the words to
songs like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", and
"I'm a Little Teapot".
Teach kids how to clap their hands and stomp their feet in time to
the music by starting with a slower and steady beat. As they catch
on, you can play faster music and eventually guide them through a
variety of musical beats, tempos, and styles.
In a swimming pool or bath do call and response splashing. For
example, one person hits their hands against the water to make a
certain number of splashes and the other responds with the same
number of splashes and in the same rhythm. It is fun to play with
a variety of speeds and tempos. Children adore getting their parents,
and siblings all wet.
Compose percussion sounds with the body. Keep the beat by clapping
hands, stomping feet, snapping fingers or clicking tongues.
Encourage kids to sing to their heart's content. Have them sing
about what they like and help them to make a 4-line song that rhymes.
(For example, I like sweet potatoes, I like peas, I like chocolates,
May I have some please? Keep the "I like" part consistent and play
around with the underlined areas.)
Playing toy instruments are an excellent introduction to real musical
Encourage kids to make their own instruments. Simple kitchen items
are great for this. (For example, put rice or beans in an empty
plastic container and you have maracas or shakers. Wooden spoons
on pots and pans or boxes make great drums.)
From the age of 3 years old, a child's brain circuits are mature
enough to begin music lessons. The piano is usually the best
instrument to start with because it does not require any specific
fingering to play.
Listen to music from a variety of styles, cultures, and time periods.
Go to the zoo or park and try to identify animals or birds by their
song or sounds
Sing songs throughout the day to help children transition or
remember a sequence of daily activities. (For example, mealtimes,
playtimes, before going out, while traveling, bathtime, bedtime etc.)
Sing songs leaving out a word and have your child fill in the blank.
For example, you could sing "Mary had a little ____" little ____,
little ____ and have your child sing "lamb".
Action songs like "The Hokey Pokey"and "If You're Happy and You Know
It" are great to engage kids whole bodies. Have your little ones make
up their own actions to any song. Sign or act out the entire alphabet
while singing the ABC's.
Sing Karaoke (This is especially helpful for children learning to
Rhythmic skills - The pattern of long and short note values in
music. Learning rhythmically is easy for most people. Rhythm and rhyme are
found in poetry, children's songs and in the ever-popular nursery rhyme.
- Language can be musical
- Read poetry, books and/or nursery rhymes aloud daily
Exercise to music and encourage children to make up their own
movements and dances. Expose them to many different types of music
using ballroom dance rhythms, classical instrumentals, popular and
ethnic music, etc. March, skip, run, jump, wiggle or shake in time
to the music - Anything goes.
Composing skills - The ability to write songs, melodies or make
- Write poetry together
Make up raps, rhymes or jingles with a list of things you'd like
to remember. (For example, a shopping list, or items to pack in a
school lunch or school bag.)
Instrumental skills - The ability to play a musical instrument
- Encourage your child to play a musical instrument. However, it is important
not to push your child to do so.
Have your kids choose the instruments that they would like to play
by picking the sound they like best. (For example, a violin sound,
a flute sound, a piano sound, etc) They will practice more if they
like hearing the sound that the instrument makes.
Listening skills - Most people like listening to music. It is
important to expose your child to many different types of music to develop
well-rounded appreciation. It is very beneficial to allow your children to
listen to music they like as this encourages their self-expression and
often assists older children to release emotions that they may not readily
or openly share.
- Invest one hour a week listening to music that is unfamiliar to you
and expands your horizons (This can be done easily tuning into different
Attend concerts and musical theatre
Musical Memory Skills
Most of us can dance to a beat or remember a jingle, poem, or rhyme.
By the simple act of repetitive listening, we often know words to songs
even though we made no conscious effort to memorize them.
Repetition is the simplest and fastest way to teach your child.
Practice, practice and more practice guarantees consistent results over
© Copyright 2004 Deborah Torres Patel. May not be reprinted without permission.