How Music Benefits Children

"It's our time to sing together. Sing Hello, Hello!" A group of bright-faced of toddlers sits mesmerized as their moms clap and sing the welcome song in their Kindermusik class. We all know that music can soothe the savage toddler. But according to Don Campbell, internationally known educator and author of The Mozart Effect for Children, music also enhances intelligence, coordination, emotional expression, creativity, and socialization skills.

There's no guarantee your child will be composing symphonies by age 6. But Campbell does call music, particularly Mozart, "a power bar for the brain," not a frill but a developmental necessity in early childhood.

Why Mozart?

"His music is not oversaturated with emotion or rhythm. He doesn't overexcite the mind," says Campbell. "It's very balanced, clear music that can be used for many different kinds of noninvasive activities, depending on the age of the child-everything from meal time to sleep time to creating a good study environment."

If the thought of listening to Mozart 24/7 doesn't thrill you, don't despair. Campbell says kids benefit from exposure to a wide variety of quality music: folk songs, international music, hymns, jazz, children's songs, even rock music as a form of "sonic caffeine" to re-energize a child. Think of music like food, he says. "There are things that are very delicious that we like but we can't eat all the time. We need a balance in the ear as well."

Music Enhances Intelligence

At birth, a child's brain is in an unfinished state. Music plays a critical role in the process of "wiring" a young child's brain. With older children, music can create a good study environment and help a child learn information more efficiently. In fact, high school students who sing or play an instrument scored up to 52 points higher on the SAT than those who do not.

By now, you're probably wondering What tapes do I need to buy? But it's not simply a matter of playing music in the background to make your kid smarter, cautions Campbell. In fact, he encourages active participation of caregivers, especially when children are young. In other words, warm up those vocal chords and start crooning!

With young children, singing, chanting and rhythmic play can increase your child's vocabulary. Campbell encourages parents to make up songs about everyday activities like diaper changes and baths, turning a boring chore into a fun "sound break." As a child gets older, encourage her to invent her own songs.

If you can't carry a tune in a basket, don't despair. "I think there are musical qualities in all of us," says Campbell. Darren Muise of Kindermusik agrees. "I always say to parents, 'If you don't think you're a good singer, sing louder!'"

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