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How Learning Music Helps Children’s Cognitive Development

Posted on   in Learning Environment

Cognitive development refers to the ongoing changes in the human brain that increase an individual’s ability to reason, think, and understand. The thought processes involved include memory, decision-making, and problem-solving. These changes in mental capacity continue through adulthood, but children develop cognitive skills rapidly as they learn to make sense of, and navigate their way through, the world around them. When you understand the basics of music instruction, it is easy to see how learning music helps children’s cognitive development.

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Scientific studies have shown that the brains of children who learn to play a musical instrument are learning to process new sounds. Being able to distinguish the difference between various sounds can boost reading skills. Improvements in literacy can ultimately translate into better grades at school.

According to a Northwestern University study, simple enrolling a child in music lessons does not ensure he or she will receive the full benefits of brain development. The child must actively participate in the lessons to experience enhanced neural processing. The results of the study revealed that the active manipulation and generation of sound stimulates changes in the brain. Students who attended a music appreciation class showed less improvement in neural processing than students who played instruments during the class.

Creating music is about more than just developing the necessary motor skills to play an instrument. It involves the implementation of multiple skill sets at the same time. Children can incorporate these advanced skills into mastering other subjects.

Learning to play music is also a benefit when it comes to language development. Musical training affects the left side of a child’s brain. This is the same area of the brain associated with processing language. Learning music strengthens a child’s ability to be verbally competent, which is advantageous in social settings.

Studies comparing the brains of young musicians and young non-musicians show there is a difference in how the brain works in the two groups. Neural activity shows more growth in musically inclined children. Musicians are required to use more of their brain when playing a musical instrument. One study led by a psychology professor at Boston College compared brain images of children who played instruments and those who did not. Students who underwent musical instruction showed improvements in completing fine motor tasks and discriminating sounds. The scans of the musicians’ brains revealed network changes in the area of the brain associated with those skills.

Music lessons can help children when it comes to problem solving, which is a spatial intelligence skill. They develop an ability to visualize elements that belong together, the same as if they were attempting to solve a math equation. These skills are valuable when attempting to solve multistep problems associated with computer science, engineering, math, architecture, gaming, and art.

Another study shows a link between musical training and the ability to concentrate. Musical training requires intense concentration, which may build the skills necessary to perform well on standardized tests according to study results published in 2007 by a University of Kansas professor. Students who received exceptional musical education scored higher on math and English scores compared to those students who participated in low-quality musical education programs.

Along with better performance on tasks requiring a high amount of concentration, playing an instrument has a positive effect on proficiency in memory recall and verbal recall. Linking new information to a familiar song can help imprint the information on the brain making it easier for kids to remember what they learned. Formal musical education has an equally positive effect on having the ability to retrieve verbal information from memory.

Parents should remember that exposure to music alone does not improve a child’s ability to learn or develop certain motor or cognitive skills. Kids must remain engaged throughout the educational process to reap all the benefits. The benefits are not all intellectual either. Individuals who play instruments as part of a group gain self-confidence while learning to work as part of a team.

They learn patience because they have to wait for their turn to play, and they learn to pay attention, so they know when it is their turn to play. Group rehearsals and solo practice teach a child discipline. Kids who focus their attention on practicing an instrument learn that they can achieve success with hard work and perseverance. Even children who do not aspire to become professional musicians can benefit from musical training. The skills they acquire will stay with them through adulthood and translate assets that will be helpful in all aspects of life.