My eldest son Oliver (not above, that’s a stock shot people) recently turned 5, the perfect age to start learning a musical instrument.
With a passion for playing his keyboard, I’m now seriously considering starting piano lessons-a gift my brother and I were given as kids ourselves, with many happy memories playing on a beautiful baby grand piano my parents bought us, sadly since sold when we left home for university and had stopped playing.
Researching the importance of music to children’s development really brought home how crucial it is for me to encourage my children learn to play an instrument and appreciate music.
Learning to read music and play is beneficial to the human brain, and students in school can use music in multiple ways to help them academically and emotionally to become more successful in the classroom.
1. Increased Language Skills
Studies have shown that learning to play an instrument can boost a child’s self-esteem and confidence.
Students, especially younger ones demonstrated a boost in their language skills when learning to play an instrument which supported their reading, writing and communication skills across all subject areas.
took a group of children in the non-profit Harmony Project, which provides music education and instruments to poor children in the area, and over two years found that those children who participated in the classes showed larger improvements in how the brain processed their speech and reading, to those who took little interest in the lessons.
Lead author of the study, Nina Kraus, says : ‘Even in a group of highly motivated students, small variations in music engagement, attendance and class participation, predicted the strength of neural processing after music training’.
Speech processing is an incredibly vital skill; one that is needed for reading and understanding language, so music can be a of great help if your student is struggling especially with reading where self-confidence can also quickly become an issue.
2. Better Study Habits
Does your student have trouble sitting down to study by themselves?
Or are they possibly discouraged by their inefficiency at learning the material when trying to study?
Well, music could be the answer!
One study, cited in an article entitled, ‘Students- Listening to Music While Studying Can Help!‘ found that if students chose to listen to music, classical offered better results than popular music.
University research in France also found that ‘listening to classical music while studying can actually help students score higher on tests’.
As part of the study, one group of students had classical music playing in the background while listening to a lecture and the other group did not. Both groups took a quiz on the contents of the lecture and the result showed the group with music scored significantly higher on the same quiz.
There’s speculation as to how and why this works, but some think it has to do with the emotional state music puts students in, as explained by the researchers: ‘It is possible that music, provoking a change in the learning environment, influenced the students’ motivation to remain focused during the lecture, which led to better performance on the multiple-choice quiz’.
So the lesson learned is that by allowing your student to listen to music in general may lighten their mood and actually help them to better focus on the content!
3. Help Children Focus Their Attention and Diminish Anxiety
One of the largest studies of the association between playing an instrument and brain development has been produced by the University of Vermont College where they found ‘musical training might help kids focus their attention, control their emotions and diminish their anxiety’.
The study used brain scans of 232 children, ranging in ages from 6 to 18 and it was discovered that when playing an instrument, the motor areas of the brain responsible for control and coordination were altered as well as the behaviour-regulating areas that relate to executive functioning, memory, organization and planning.
The study even found that the part of the brain that affects inhibitory control (an important aspect of emotion processing) was also affected, showing a strong correlation between a child’s musical background to the cortical thickness in the brain. Music creates well being and encourages learning.
Time for me to book those piano lessons!