No matter one’s age, music can inﬂuence an individual’s cognitive function. Studies show that even simply listening to music increases dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter associated with euphoria, bliss, motivation, & concentration. While music can reap beneﬁts for all populations, music can signiﬁcantly inﬂuence brain development as well as promote a healthy state of mind in young children.
According to the results of a study conducted by neuroscientists at the University of Southern California, music and music instruction accelerates brain development in young children, particularly in areas of language development, processing sound, reading skills, and speech perception. Using several tools and techniques to conduct and monitor research including MRI’s, EEG’s, and behavioural testing, it was found that auditory systems in the brains of children with music instruction were maturing faster than those without music. As a result of this expedited maturation, the rate of development of language and reading increased as well. The study concluded that there were physiological changes in the brains of these young children that resulted in enhanced maturity, highlighting the beneﬁts of exposure to music and instruction at a young age.
The above research showcases the impact music can have for brain development in children. There are even further possible beneﬁts of music for socio-emotional development and overall well-being. Below are just a few goals that music therapists may target when facilitating sessions with young children!
A way of expression: Children may still be discovering the healthiest way to express themselves, or ﬁnd verbal expression diﬃcult. Thus, music can help. One accessible manner of emotional expression may be through instrument playing. Instruments such as drums, shakers, or other percussive instruments may be great tools for encouraging the expression of a child’s anger, joy or sadness, when words may not suﬃce.
Another outlet for expression may be through songwriting. Songwriting may prove to be valuable as a result of the opportunity it provides for children to share emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Songwriting also allows children to express themselves in a way they would not typically. Some may ﬁnd it easier to share ideas through songwriting than to share thoughts verbally.
Lastly, lyric analysis may prove to be another manner of expression through music for youth. Lyric analysis, by broad deﬁnition, is the discussion of song lyrics. Lyric analysis can be used to engage in discussion centred on the lyrical content for the purpose of addressing or validating how children feel regarding a certain topic. By using song lyrics as a catalyst, processing the music can be a non-invasive way of opening up discussion about “tough stuﬀ” and other feelings.
Social connection: Music can bring children together. Music provides a common space for children to relate, and helps to mitigate feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is especially important for children when they are discovering who they are and exploring their talents!
Creativity: Music can be an outlet for children to feel competent, individual, and unique. With so many genres and instruments to choose from, children have the opportunity to explore what they ﬁnd most relatable and accessible. Researchers have shown that experiencing a variety of musical styles, building musical knowledge, and creating can help students develop musical skills and ultimately improve their self-esteem.
Relaxation / Alleviation of stress, anxiety: Music can not only uplift, but also provide a sense of calm and help alleviate anxiety or stress. Teaching children coping strategies and musical relaxation techniques can be signiﬁcant for their mental health. Interventions such as deep breathing to soft, instrumental music, or enhancing other relaxation experiences with the facilitation of music may prove to be signiﬁcant for a child’s mental health.
Music not only impacts brain development in children, but can also promote a healthy state of mind and overall well-being. At Wellington Music Therapy Services, our music therapists and music educators are trained in eﬀective facilitation of music in sessions with children to meet their needs and goals. Please do not hesitate to reach out to learn more about how we can serve your family!
Habibi, A., Cahn, B.R., Damasio, A., Damasio, H. “Neural correlates of accelerated auditory processing in children engaged in music training”. Science Direct, 2016, vol. 21, pp. 1-14.
“Music and health”. Harvard Health Publishing, 2011, health.harvard.edu/stayinghealthy/music-and-health.
Culp, M.E. “Improving Self-Esteem in General Music.” General Music Today, 2016, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 19–24, doi:10.1177/1048371315619962.