Does music help children learn?

Dec 2011
Does music help children learn?
Rhythms in many types of music help to improve reading fluency

For those who had parents (or were parents) in the 1950s, you'll probably remember the 'Mozart Effect'. The developmental theory dictated that listening to classical music at a young age directly results in improvements in mental performance and IQ. Understandably the release of this theory led to a boost in the sales of classical music, as millions of parents rushed out a buy themselves a new set of records. Every nursery in the country blared Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and the theory was so pervasive that the state of Georgia in America offered 'free classical music' for every newborn baby.

The classical music craze took parents by storm, but as with most theories, it's been widely criticized. Several cognitive therapists have voiced doubts about the measurable impact of such methods. However, even if playing Mozart at bedtime doesn't immediately turn your toddler into a genius, it's widely agreed by experts that ongoing musical education helps children to develop a wide spectrum of other skills.

While not all schools have extended musical education available, basic music lessons are part of the national curriculum. Learning to play a musical instrument has been proven to improve a child's memory, as well as other skills ranging from literacy to mathematics. These effects can be attributed to the skills required for musical performance, as playing an instrument requires a child to focus and improve on core skills; a method that can be applied to their other 'subjects'. The child must learn discipline, and perseverance, as well as focus and motivation; all key skills essential to effective study. If they've developed the discipline to keep up with practice and music lessons, they're more likely to be able to cope with the increase in workload as they grow older.

It's also been demonstrated that the rhythms in many types of music help to improve reading fluency. If your child opts for singing lessons, this can also improve literacy skills as they'll be reading and dealing with lyrics on a regular basis. This can also provide a child with their first introduction to poetry and verse, both core topics in English Literature.

Singing coaches will be able to focus on the child's pronunciation and understanding of phonetics, helping them to develop verbal communication skills. With younger children, the key concepts of music also help to develop logical thinking: ideas such as long and short, left and right as well as the concepts of numbers and counting, all go to help in other areas of their learning.

Outside of the obvious, let's not forget the impact learning an instrument can have on non-academic skills. Learning and performing music can improve a child's self-esteem, confidence and social skills, especially if they perform in musical groups. This means they'll be more likely to socialise well in school, often leading to improved academic performance.