“Music is the universal language of Mankind,” are the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Music is an artistic form of auditory communication. It incorporates instrumental and vocal tones, which are structured and pleasingly harmonious. The origin of music is an unending mystery because it dates back to the pre-historic times. It has been the most essential and fundamental aspect of different cultures. Many researchers also argue that it dates back before the emergence of language itself! This article covers some interesting points on the effects of music on child development.
Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, notes that “Darwin himself was evidently puzzled about the origin of music in culture. In ‘The Descent of Man,’ he writes, as neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes is faculties of the least use to man. They must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed.”
Sacks further explains, “We humans are a musical species no less than a linguistic one. We integrate all of these and ‘construct’ music in our minds using many different parts of the brain. And to this largely unconscious structural appreciation of music is added an often intense and profound emotional reaction to music.”
He, then, quotes German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, “The inexpressible depth of music; easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all of the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain. Music expresses only the quintessence of life and of its events, never these themselves.”
Now let’s immerse further into the musical journey of its fruitfulness to humans.
As stated before, the origin of humans is very much unknown. Yet, there are so many ways in which music influences our behavior growth and mood. Music is imbibed into us at a rather young age. As it is rightly said, ‘Childhood is the foundation of Life,’ we must come to terms that our cultural music is embedded into our minds at this tender age of development. Thus, we learn to appreciate our very own cultural music more than any other! Also, read Surprising facts on why and how music affects your mood.
Having said that, music is very much innate. But, how does it evolve our minds and enhance our cognitive abilities? Keep reading to discover the effects of music on child development!
Like all the best learning experiences in early childhood, musical activities for babies promote development in multiple domains simultaneously. Singing a lullaby while cradling a baby stimulates early language development. Furthermore, it promotes attachment with the caretaker or the parent and supports the infant’s growing spatial awareness as the child experiences her body moving in space.
Why music is important for child development:
Music and prenatal development:
Exposure to music in the prenatal stage is known to have remarkable effects on the baby. Of course, it doesn’t make the fetus smarter nor does it give a long-term effect to the brain, in contrast to the well-known rumor. But, certainly, it improves the mental activity of the fetus making it more active. It is also proven that exposure to soothing music in the pre-natal stage induces several neural representations that last for several months.
It is proven that, in the third trimester, a baby is able to recognize the voice of his mother. When the mother reads or talks out loud to the baby, it is known to enhance the calmness and the auditory development of the child. The child responds to the mother. That is the main reason why doctors encourage parents to talk to their baby in the pre-natal stage.
To add up, the child is able to respond to the vibrations in the surrounding, even the rhythms and even the tonality of one’s native language. When the fetus is exposed to slow music, it aligns its breath with the beats. So, the process of music perception starts way before birth.
Listening to soothing music during pregnancy improves the heart rate and the O2 saturation levels of the fetus. At the same time, loud and erratic noises startle the unborn babies and known to have an opposite effect. So, it’s a completely bad idea to expose a pregnant woman to metal or rock tracks.
Another interesting fact is, an individual is able to recognize the music they heard in the pre-natal stage!
Music and Infancy: Effects of music on child development
Music, because it is so often shared with others in singing, dancing, and playing instruments together, is by its very nature a social experience. Stories in a musical form are more popular than the text versions. Musical activities with infants and toddlers offer them many opportunities to grow.
- Learning: Singing lullabies to babies and infants help them to learn the language, moral conduct, and norms. If you’ve observed, toddlers are taught rhymes before they’re taught to read and write. Why so? Music gives a better hand over the language. You’ll find a child immediately singing along the rhyme he/she has been listening to, over and over, though it doesn’t make sense to him. Besides linguistic development, there are values, social etiquettes, and discipline which is taught through music. A child is made a social animal through music indeed!
- Practice self-regulation: Think about the power of lullabies to soothe very young children. When adults help babies calm down, they are actually supporting the development of self-regulation. Self-Regulation is the ability to manage one’s emotional state and physical needs. Thus, the experience of being soothed also helps babies learn to soothe themselves. That’s why we see many people refuging into music to calm themselves in the time of strain and turmoil. Though this learning is largely unconscious and involuntary, it offers as a solution in the state of disturbance.
- Understand emotions: Singing about feelings helps babies and toddlers learn the words to describe their emotional experiences. For example, the action song: If you’re happy and you know it. The fact is that music evokes feelings even when there are no words. Children learn to define their own emotions and express themselves better. One recent study found that babies as young as 5 months old are able, under some conditions, to discriminate between happy and sad musical excerpts.
- Develop cultural awareness: Playing songs and using musical styles from children’s home cultures creates a connection between the home and the caregiving setting. This nurtures children’s feelings of safety and security and validates the importance of their culture and language. Thus, one is more inclined to their own cultural music. In addition to that, this is what compels individuals to pass on pass on cultural music from generation to generation. Along with that, it also engraves cultural superiority among individuals.
Music has a never-ending effect on our growth and development. It influences right from womb to tomb. Thus, music therapy is such a success! Of course, it has its own cultural limitations. Yet, its impact is deeply effective and helpful. Although music therapy is a developing field, musical therapists have made a successful research and practitioner career out of it.
The reason why music originated is an unsolved question. But, its outcome has made us accustomed to expressing ourselves by either making music or listening to it. It has become an irreversible part of humanity that cannot be separated from its emotional equivalence. This was all about the effects of music on child development and human behavior. Do share your comments and experiences below. Thank You for reading.