We have all heard that if you want to build your child’s math brain, expose them to music. Some parents start playing classical music during nap and bedtime to calm them, in hopes that their sleeping baby will be the next Einstein. However, did you know the power music has on building the foundation for reading?
Learning to read is basically the ability to hear or recognized different sounds and then connecting those sounds to letters of an alphabet. Listening to music from an early age helps the brain learn sound discrimination, hear different instruments, rhythms, and developing language. Exposing your child to a variety of genres of music and in different languages only enhances their ability to build these skills.
Have you ever been curious about the why behind playing patty cake or teaching your child nursery rhymes? Often we think of these as just games or songs passed down through generations without realizing their importance. One of the indicators used to determine whether or not a child may struggle with reading is their ability or inability to rhyme and or delete or substitute sounds in a language. Think about the many nursery rhymes you know. The base of those fun songs is typically teaching rhyming, rhythm, and building important parent/child connections. Some of my childhood favorites nursery rhymes are “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and “Down by the Bay.” Children can also practicing deleting and substituting sounds with “B-I-N-G-O” and “Apples and Bananas.” Another great way for children to building these skills is to learn songs/rhymes from different cultures.
So, we have our child listening to music to build new neurons in the brain, and to develop the ability to distinguish different sounds, but is there more we can do? Absolutely! The brain is a very complex organ that has many different parts and pieces with various roles. In child development, we often talk about how to engage the whole brain in hopes of enhancing learning. Typically, we are referring to the right brain and the left brain.
The right brain is referred to as the creative side of the brain, the side we tend to think artists use the most. The left side is the logical, linear, language side of the brain and where those mathematicians live. This is fun imagery to use, but in reality information and learning is constantly crossing to both sides of the brain, referred to as crossing mid-line. Interestingly, where you learn rhythm is on the right side and where you learn language is on the left. So finding musically focused, cross-mid-line activities is the power food for brain development. This could include boomwhackers and dance routines that engage both sides of the body.
Further, studies show us children who study music score higher than their peers on tests measuring the ability to analyze information and solve complex problems. Twenty-first century skills include flexibility and adaptability, and the arts promote these skills in children. We’ve also learned that students who participate and attend live theater have increased tolerance of diversity and are more successful in social interactions. The performance arts allow students to experience what it feels like to be on a team, and be active members of a community.
Here are a few apps and website that help engage children in musical activities:
Mussila Music School (Android/Apple)
Mazaam-The Musical Genius (Android/Apple)
The Learning Station (YouTube)
family.gonoodle.com (check out the Kids Zumba!)
“There is music in every child. The teacher’s job is to find it and nurture it.” — Francis Clark
Ami Muilenburg is a principal and Jacque Fox a teacher for the Milton-Freewater School District, a partner of the Blue Mountain Early Learning Hub, which works to bridge early childhood resources and prepare children for kindergarten. For more information visit www.bluemoun-tainearlylearninghub.org.