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Can Music Make Our Children Smarter?

By Mary Rudy


Kindermusik, Mary Rudy, Livingston, MT - (406) 333-9595

Yes, according to ancient wisdom and modern research. Plato once said that music is a more potent instrument than any other form of education. Now scientists know why. Music trains the brain for higher forms of thinking, and the first seven of life are the most important time to develop a musical aptitude in children.

Well-known research by Frances Rauscher shows that pre-schoolers have a 43 percent increase in spatial intelligence and abstract reasoning after taking weekly keyboard lessons. But what about non-performance musical experiences, like singing, moving and dancing to music, playing rhythm instruments and learning musical notes? And does parental involvement make a difference?

This is what researchers at Sam Houston University set to find out by studying children ages 4-6 from various socio-economic backgrounds. Half of the group had a 75- minute Kindermusik class for 30 weeks. The other half did not. Children were tested before and after the study. Kindermusik was chosen for the study because it offers a variety of musical experiences and encourages parent involvement during class time and with home activities.

The Kindermusik group scored significantly higher on intelligence scores than the non-music group. And children whose parents were involved jumped from the 50th percentile up to the 87th, and had significantly higher scores in abstract reasoning (used in problem solving and advanced math.)

The children were also tested on their musical skills. Children who had Kindermusik showed a huge improvement in singing on pitch, keeping a steady beat and matching rhythms and melodies. Other studies also show high correlation between music and high cognitive performance (something to think about, as school music programs across the country are eliminated).

Toddlers who had attended Kindermusik classes before the study scored even higher and improved more rapidly on intelligence scores than other children, confirming recent articles in Time and other news sources about how exposing babies and toddlers to music makes them smarter! According to child specialists, music has profound benefits for a child's total development­cognitive, social, emotional, physical, language and or course musical.

How does music work its magic on the brain? Music is related to the development of the frontal lobes of the brain during a sensitive "learning window" from birth to age six. Frontal lobes help us see the "big picture" in tasks like puzzles, and eventually in disciplines like math and science.

Keeping the beat to music stimulates the frontal lobes, as do all rhythmic musical activities like dancing, rocking, and playing sticks, bells and drums.

That is why Kindermusik, a national program designed by music and early childhood specialists, has unique music programs for children from birth through age 7. Each program is designed to be age-appropriate, involves the parent and includes home materials.
Benefits start from the earliest days of infancy. According to infant specialist Dr Guendolyn McGraw, babies are interested in sounds from birth, and may even match pitch or "sing" to a simple song! All musical stimulation will benefit their later development. In a Kindermusik Village class, babies explore a variety of music and songs with their parents, moving to steady beat and dances and trying out instruments like chime balls, drums, bells and egg shakers. The baby's innate sensitivity to sound and silence is heightened. Whether dancing to the Virginia Reel, playing peek-a-boo with scarves or shaking a rattle to a Calypso tune, babies also thrive on the social interaction as they enjoy music with other babies.

At 18 months, toddlers become eager to explore the world, as they continue relying on the parent for emotional support. The Kindermusik Our Time program is from 18 months to three years, and focuses on the child's emotional development when confidence, curiosity, self-control and language skills are taking shape. In this delightful, weekly 45 minute class, children explore instruments, movement, musical story time, dancing, singing and the rhythmic and melodic patterns in songs and speech.
Creative dancing to different "moods" of music and movement with hoops and scarves helps develop the child's sense of balance, timing and spatial awareness. Children delight in sharing the fun with their parents, and taking home the CD's with all the class songs and dances, the musical storybooks, the activity books and their own special instrument like a stir xylophone or child-safe harmonica.
Growing with Kindermusik is the next program created for 3-4 year olds. At this age imagination peaks, and creative movement and musical drama are added to the program, along with more instrument exploration and making home-made instruments.

Children come on their own for the first half hour, and parents participate in circle dances and songs the last 15 minutes. Each week, children take home an activity to reinforce musical concepts learned in class. Classes are fun, with child-appealing themes and exciting musical games.

When a child is 4 -5 years old, he is ready for a Kindermusik for the Young Child class, the program used in the Sam Houston study. This Kindermusik class is a two-year sequential program where children learn to read music, play tunes on simple instruments like a glockenspiel, dulcimers and recorders, and learn about orchestral instruments and composers-playful, hands-on experiences that foster the joy of making music with others. Creative movement and folk dances help develop grace and coordination. During the second year, children explore music of others cultures.

What is a child ready for after Kindermusik? Learning to play an instrument like the piano or violin will be much easier, as will singing or any other form of artistic expression. Kindermusik fosters a life-long love and enjoyment of music and according to current research, optimum life-long learning.

Kindermusik classes have been taught in Montana for over 10 years, and are available in Livingston, Emigrant and Bozeman. Mary Rudy is on the faculty of Kindermusik International and gives teacher workshops around the country. She also teaches Kindermusik in her Livingston and Emigrant studios.