Connecting music skills and learning

The Grandparents Teach, Too writing team.

The years before age 8 are a critical time for building the physical, mental and emotional foundations that support us for the rest of our lives.

Researchers have found a significant positive relationship between formal music lessons before or around age 8 and reading comprehension, spelling, math, listening, brain development and motor skills in sports.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, based at Brown University, explored the effects of art and music education on young children’s learning. The conclusions of these studies support the theory that music instruction can help build intellectual and emotional skills, facilitate children’s learning and strengthen academics.

There are other benefits, too:

¯ Concentration: Learning a musical instrument helps children develop concentration since they must focus on a particular activity over extended periods of time. Developing concentration in this way also will help them when they must focus their attention on other subjects at school. Learning an instrument may counteract the brain’s tendency to develop a short attention span from playing video games where the brain is given short bursts of expected reinforcement and rapid fire action, which is the opposite of learning an instrument and learning in school.

¯ Coordination: Practicing musical instruments improves hand-eye coordination. Children develop important motor skills when playing music just as they do when playing different sports.

¯ Relaxation: More and more, music therapy is being used to complement more traditional forms of medicine, especially to reduce stress. Researchers acknowledge that certain types of music can aid relaxation by lowering heart rates and blood pressure. If a child does not learn an instrument we can at least introduce them to different kinds of music.

¯ Patience and perseverance: In order to learn a musical instrument, children must develop patience and perseverance, which will help them later in life when they must tackle other more difficult challenges.

¯ Self-confidence: The act of learning and playing an instrument, the encouragement of a teacher and enthusiasm of proud parents and grandparents will build a sense of pride and confidence. Children who practice self-expression and creativity often become better communicators later in life, according to the research.

If children are entering middle school, there is a second opportunity to develop musical skills. This is the second famous brain development time. It is like a second chance. That is why it is important to encourage learning a band or orchestra instrument at this important time.

Spring is a great time to take children to a symphony, musical play, a high school band, orchestra or choral concert. The music is exceptional and inspires young children. Discuss audience etiquette so they are quiet and clap appropriately.

For more, see and Through the Seasons live and podcasts; Facebook and Pinterest.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Grandparents Teach, Too is a non-profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. The writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan, the U.P. Association for the Education of Young Children, Northern Michigan School of Education, the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum and the Northern Michigan University Center for Economic Education.