Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Music and children

Being a former music major, I learned early on the vast importance of music in the home. Still, it can be kind of daunting for some people to sing with their kids or try to play an instrument. So, I'm going to head off on a tangent for a moment.

When a human has sensory input--they hear something, taste something, feel something, etc--it excites certain areas of the brain. Doctors have seen this on MRI's and CAT scans. It is really wondrous to behold the human brain creating memories and connections, and watching the electric and chemical impulses bouncing around. These connections are massively important in young children, who form 90% or more of their behavioral impulses before they reach the age of 3. That gives us parents just a few short years to instruct and demonstrate good behavior before our children are in ruts that it may be impossible to come out of. Crazy, huh!

So, how can we make sure the brain develops the right synapses? Music! When examining the brain during an MRI, doctors noticed that a picture or a scent would light up a certain, specific, section of the brain. However, when the patient listened to music, the entire brain was afire, lighting everywhere over and over again. How intriguing. A concept presented with music therefore reaches all of our memory and function centers faster and more completely than other forms of communication. Fellow parents, this is why it is essential that we have music in our homes.

Now, I'm not talking about playing a 1-man-band symphony every night to put our kids to sleep, or that we sing like opera stars to impress them. I'm talking about singing silly kids songs like "Eensie Weensie Spider" and "Twinkle Twinkle little Star." How many of us can still sing our ABC's easier than just saying them? That's because our brain can associate it with music. If you sing a goofy song, even just make up the tune and the words, to encourage a child to take a bath or eat their broccoli, you might just find it works.

Music can also be a fantastic attention-getter. I find when my son Lee has been listening to a lesson for a few minutes, he loses focus. That's when it is time to halt gears, get up, and sing a song. Maybe throw in some actions. Who cares how it sounds; this is between my 3 year old son and me. Nobody knows if I'm completely off tune. But Lee knows he's having fun, and by choosing a song that goes with my lesson, I continue to engage his brain in focusing activity.

So if you're self conscious or don't like music for whatever reason, it's time to get off your high horse and sing with your kids. They will quickly forget if it sounds good, and always remember the concept you sang to them, or the laughter that ensued afterword.

p.s. If you're still too self-conscious, go get some kid's CD's at the store and dance along.

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