The Benefits of Music for Child Development

By Crisel Consunji, originally published in Playtimes Magazine, July 2016 Issue

For a child, music is life—from the rhythm that gets his feet walking, to the familiar melody of his mother tongue, to the very beat of a parent’s heart as a child lays on his father’s chest. Whether for a babe of naught or a child of four, music moves and grows with the child. Whilethe examples are inexhaustible, here is a brief list.

Math & Cognition: German Mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz put it quite clearly when he said, “Music is the sensation of counting without knowing you were counting.” As music is made up of time signatures, beats and rhythm, your child’s brain catches up with the varying patterns that get the senses stimulated. Allowing your child to tap to the changing tempo and meter is synonymous to brain exercise!

Language and Literacy: Recent studies have shown that even babies barely a year old can distinguish their native language-- and accent—from among a sea of sounds. As babies pick learn to vocally communicate, singing with them and exposing them to varying tones and rhythmic inflections allows them to build a repertoire of sounds, which in turn forms phonemes, syllables and words. By expanding their musical libraries, you are giving your baby better access and future command of verbal communication.

Socio-Emotional Development: As both a creative and expressive outlet, music has the power to help build positive memories, calm emotions and communicate feelings. When a song accompanies a ritual (whether it be bath time, bedtime or reminders to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’) the element of musical repetition helps ingrain the ritual. At the same time, this provides a sense of predictability and involvement for the child, giving the child the feelings of comfort, confidence, and calm. Singing together with children is also a great way to process feelings, and build stronger relationships among family and friends.

Physical Development: Moving to music helps children understand its form—smooth or bumpy (legato/staccato), fast or slow (lento/rapido), loud or quiet (forte/piano). Music and movement feed off each other, and these concepts help children be in control of their bodies, as they use them to interpret what they hear. For toddlers, in particular, moving to a steady beat guides their first walking steps quite literally, and learning inhibitory control through stop-and- go music allows them to be in command of their bodies.

While these examples only skim the surface, it is important to note that music comes in many forms, all of them beautiful and valid—from mom and dad’s acapella singing, to instrumentals, and even to nursery rhymes. Whether you and your child enjoy world music, classical, jazz or pop, one facet is common among them—that music is a force that builds the mind, and moves the soul. To harness its power for development, you need to engage in it with all senses; Not only what you hear, but also how you speak and move.

In a nutshell, it just means to bring music with you, in every part in your life!