Does music play an important role in your life? For many of us, it does. We listen to music to relax, to celebrate big occasions like weddings or birthdays and some of us play musical instruments ourselves. Music can be a uniquely human expression of emotion and bring added meaning to our days. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many parents want to encourage the learning and appreciation of music in their children’s lives. Learning music requires effort and patience, of course, but the benefits for children can be widespread and long-lasting.
Music can foster creativity
Children usually have a real knack for creativity, and music only enhances this skill. Music is a creative endeavor, and learning how to play an instrument can foster greater creativity in children. Exposure to music also helps promote divergent thinking–that is, thinking “outside the box.” This means that children who learn how to play might develop new ideas, innovative solutions to challenges, and unconventional ways to tackle their school work.
Greater creativity can serve children well beyond their school years too. Careers in most fields need individuals who can come up with creative solutions and innovative ideas. Studying music today might just foster your child’s creative juices enough to develop the next big idea to help solve a major world problem.
Music provides a brain boost
We all know that music is good for the brain, but recently researchers have begun to understand why that is the case. Scientists can see that individuals who go through music training actually have more neural activity using new brain scans. That means that children who learn music are using more of their brains. This brain activity translates into better skills in areas like sound discrimination and fine motor skills.
For everyday life, the brain-boosting power of music can help children in all academic areas. Learning music has been linked to higher test scores, better verbal abilities, and even improved memory. Perhaps the best part of these musical benefits is that they all flow naturally from children doing something they enjoy–learning music. That means it’s a win-win for parents and children. Children are reaping all the benefits of learning music, and they just think they are having fun.
Learning music promotes executive functioning skills
Does your child struggle with keeping track of all their assignments (and due dates) at school? Or maybe they aren’t great at planning for a big project? These types of abilities like planning and organization are all aspects of executive functioning skills. These are all the sort of “unseen” skills that children (and adults) need to get through life effectively without forgetting where their keys are or missing deadlines. It turns out that music training is even helpful for these types of skills.
Some studies find that children who participate in music training have improved executive functioning skills, particularly planning and inhibition. That means that your music-loving child might not forget their homework, or they might be better able to stay quiet in class when necessary. Researchers believe the executive functioning benefits of music occur because learning to play an instrument helps strengthen the connections between the brain’s two hemispheres. These connections are thought to lead to improvements in executive functioning skills.
The music + math connection
For years scholars have found links between learning music and math skills. Many researchers thought that these links might be due to other factors that both skills had in common. They thought maybe it had to do with their overall cognitive abilities. In recent years, scholars have begun to make sense of these connections. It turns out that the music and math connection is even stronger than they initially realized. Even after accounting for many other factors, learning music is still linked to better math skills. Some researchers speculate that learning in many areas, whether music, math, or reading, all have a common process underlying them. Thus, supporting learning in each of these areas might help all of these domains.
Regardless of the process, it’s clear that learning music and learning math are mutually supportive of one another. In contrast to the notion that academic subjects like math and reading are entirely separate mental silos from skills like art and music, many scholars now argue that these areas of learning all support the education of the whole person.
Learning music fosters empathy
Perhaps one of the most overlooked positive benefits of music training is its prosocial qualities. Although it may not seem intuitive that learning music could be related to greater empathy, the science supports this link. Children who participate in music training tend to be more empathetic and prosocial. Thus, if your child struggles to make friends, share their favorite toy or get along in group settings, music could be a huge help for them.
Although it’s unclear just how the link between music and prosocial behavior works, scholars believe that listening and participating in music may evoke many of the same emotional perception and interpretation skills needed in social interactions. Considering the emotional power that music provokes, it makes sense that learning how to play an instrument would involve emotional perception abilities as well.
The holiday season can be a wonderful time to introduce music to children and even parents too. With BYJU’S FutureSchool’s Discover the Gifts of Music campaign, children ages 6+ and adults can access entry-level music courses for only $1 during the month of December 2021. Novices of almost any age can begin learning guitar and piano to experience all the benefits of learning how to play an instrument firsthand.
The power of music
Music has the ability to enrich all our lives through its beauty and emotional power. Beyond that, we now know that music has amazing cognitive and academic benefits as well. Learning music isn’t just another task or skill but a foundational aspect of supporting children’s development. Introducing children to music opens the door to a world of new opportunities and meaningful experiences that only it can provide.
Jaschke, A., Honing, H., Scherder, E. (2018). Longitudinal Analysis of Music Education on Executive Functions in Primary School Children. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12, p. 103.
Hellman, R. (2020). Study Shows Strong Links Between Music and Math, Reading Achievement. University of Kansas News Service. Accessed Nov. 30, 2021.
Wu, X., & Lu, X. (2021). Musical Training in the Development of Empathy and Prosocial Behaviors. Frontiers in psychology, 12, 661769.