Music lessons can boost your child’s brainpower.
By Sudha G Tilak
If you are a new mum who has not stopped singing to your infant, you are doing the right thing by introducing music to your child and that too, early on. Canadian researchers have come up with the finding that young children who are exposed to music and trained in it from a young age show improved memory. Educators believe that musicality is innate and hence children respond naturally and easily to music.
Music is food for the brain and enhances memory
Researchers at the McMaster University, Canada and the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind observed 4 to 6 year-olds who trained in the Suzuki method of music for six months. The children listened to music and imitated it by singing or playing an instrument of their choice. The findings showed that after a year musically trained children performed better in a memory test correlated with general intelligence skills, such as literacy, verbal memory, visuospatial processing, mathematics and IQ than untrained children. Dr. Laurel Trainor, Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour at the University said, “This study showed that brain responses in young, musically trained and untrained children changed differently over the course of a year. These changes are likely to be related to the cognitive benefit that is seen with musical training.” Dr. Takako Fujioka, a scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute said, “It is clear that music is good for children’s cognitive development and that music should be part of the pre-school and primary school curriculum.” Jack Thomas, Director of the Gurgaon School of Music, also believes that music is good for children. He suggests introducing informal music training for children in the age group of 4 to 6. “This is the age when children can be introduced to smaller instruments like a triangle, a tambourine, a small keyboard or xylophone that will not hurt their fingers. This can help children with motor control and initiate concentration capabilities.” By the age of 8, formal training can begin at a school with an instrument of the child’s choice.
Ancient Indian wisdom supports this thinking
Pre-historic texts like the Sama Veda (nearly 4,000 years ago) emphasised that positive acoustic energies emanate from chanting and singing. Indian musicians insist that music is therapeutic, especially when begun early, in childhood. The Nada Centre for Music Therapy in Chennai has initiated research to establish whether Indian classical ragas (sequence of selected notes) have curative propensities. Indian classical singer Shubha Mudgal says, “Exposure to music is extremely beneficial for the development of a child and to enhance concentration and aural and vocal coordination.” Rhythm patterns are often considered to help in learning number concepts better in little kids, she points out. “Music is important for children in the developing ages. It is a release and calming agent. Regular performances in the classroom boosts self-esteem in children,” says Jyoti Guha, Vice-principal of the Shriram School (Aravali), Gurgaon.
Music is the first language infants are exposed to
The essence of “motherese” (typical language used by mothers over the world) has a musical quality to it. Music is often the first “language” that infants are exposed to by their mothers. Dr. Amit Sen, senior consultant, child and adolescent psychiatry, Sitaram Institute of Science and Research, Delhi says, “Music plays a vital role in helping children with their learning, concentration and analytical skills.”
Music works as therapy for special children
Increasingly, special educators emphasise the efficacy of using music for children with special needs. Stuti Chandok works with music as therapy for children with special needs like autism, attention deficit disorders and more. “I have seen children with concentratation problems or those who stammer do well with music therapy. Music stimulates them, releases their anxieties and makes them more responsive to their surroundings,” she says. Carole Paul, a special educator adds, “For children battling anxiety or repressed emotions and unspoken frustration, music helps to focus better in a calmer manner.” Introducing music is easy. Begin by playing a variety of music, from classical to pop. By observing the child’s interest, informal training can begin at home, followed by formal, age-appropriate training.