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The Magic of Music

Photography: Loren Stow
Music is so intrinsic in our lives, and has been for centuries. No one can deny the power that music has to elicit emotions and affect our mood. Music is an art form that has no other use except as a means of self-expression and self-actualisation. But unlike a painting which stands still, music is an art that happens over a period of time, unfolding and pulling us in with melodies, beats and words.

And if this were not enough, music is even more magical when it comes to our children, because music is closely linked to language, learning and mathematical development. In order to understand how this is possible, we need to delve a little deeper into what music actually is, so that we can understand it's effect on our child's developing brain.

Music is a complicated achievement involving many different dimensions. Firstly, you get the individual sound, frequency and pitch that build vertically into chords. Those chords are then strung together horizontally over time to build different rhythms and harmonies. Add to this the different instruments, the emotional tone of the music and the meaning-laden words... and you begin to get an idea of just how amazing music really is.

Because of the countless dimensions of music, it is complicated for our brains to process it. Listening to music involves no less than 12 areas of the brain, spanning both hemispheres. Scientists have found that the more frequently your child's developing brain is exposed to music, the better any information flows through it - this is called brain coherence.

Listening to music is a whole-brain exercise, as it works more areas than any other experience you'll find.  It is a well researched fact that music aids in the development of language, learning and mathematics skills later on in life, and now we understand why - because musical stimulation literally wires a brain to be able to process complex information, which requires that various parts of the brain work together coherently.

Interestingly, music is the bridge between language development and mathematical ability. Why is this?

Consider for a moment that language and communication is almost 90% emotional. Much of what we say, is communicated between the lines, for example gestures, facial expression, tone etc. On the other end of the spectrum we get mathematics that is almost 100% unemotional, and is purely logical - a science which is driven by pattern and formula.

Nestled somewhere in the middle we find music...

Music is both emotional and yet highly logical, it ebbs and flows and yet it follows a clear pattern.This is why it acts as the brain's link between language and mathematics. It literally wires a child's brain to be able to process these polar opposites (emotional language and logical mathematics) much easier later on in life.

Music is a uniquely creative and artistic way in which we can build our children's brains - something that not only grows and strengthens neural pathways, but is also enjoyable, fun and imaginative. Imagine singing along in the car, clapping hands to the beat of a favourite song, or dancing along to music - the more involved our children are in experiencing the music, the stronger and more lasting the effect. As we always say, love and emotion are the glue that makes the learning stick (if you missed that post, go here).

It is now easier to understand why researchers have found that children who are able to read, write or play music benefit greatly in later school years with higher grade averages.

The good news? Although it is ideal for your child to learn to read, write and play music, simply enjoying music is also brain building. This is an easy and fun way to create memories while investing in your child's future.

Words: Loren Stow
when we know better... we do better

*Practica Parents: The activities that are related to music can be found under 'listening skills' for children under 24 months, and under 'Group 4 activities' for older children in the Practica Guide.

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