“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” – Maya Angelou
Earlier this month I went to an acapella singing workshop at Beckenham Place Mansion. Surrounded by ancient woodlands, the workshop was held in a Georgian mansion bursting with culture and character. When I settled into the workshop, it was lovely to feel the uplifting vocal harmonies join together and reverberate around the room. The singing workshop reminded me that music has the potential to change a person’s state of mind and is often used in therapy settings to support the mental and emotional well-being of children.
Here is the video story of Jack, a ten year old boy on the autistic spectrum, who also has ADHD and dyspraxia. Jack was initially non-verbal, but with the help of music and dancing, it completely changed his life. By singing along to songs and tapping out the beats, Jack developed his speech and language skills, and has never looked back!
“Where words fail, music speaks.” – Hans Christian Anderson
In essence, music not only uplifts children’s moods but can transform and ignite a whole new world whilst enhancing early development goals. The body and mind work together to feel, listen and connect to music. This enhances many benefits for children including self-regulation, stimulating the sensory system and enhancing play skills
In 2016, the Brain and Creativity Institute conducted a research study into the impact of music on children’s emotional, social and cognitive abilities. The study found music accelerates brain development, particularly in the areas of language acquisition, social communication, sensory processing and metacognition.
Now let’s explore some of the many benefits music can have on the mind, body and spirit.
♬ Fun and engaging – Music can be used as a fun incentive during routine tasks, part of movement breaks or simply for pleasure. It can also be used as an engaging educational tool, particularly when introducing new cultures and traditions to children. For instance, listening to Maori music can teach students about the history of New Zealand; or singing and dancing to an African song can introduce a new language and culture. Whilst music engages children’s knowledge and understanding of the outside world, it can also tap into children’s emotions particularly if they hear a song that resonates with them.
♬ Develops self-regulation skills – Self-regulation enables children to manage, adapt and direct their thoughts, attention and behaviours in relation to the demands of different situations. Many children with special needs may need supportive strategies and repetition to develop self-regulation skills. For instance, transitions and changes to routines can trigger heightened emotions and behaviours. Music however, can be a great tool to help with self-regulation. Learning to listen carefully to sounds, slowing their actions down, humming along softly/loudly, attending to musical activities, participating on cue and even develop turn taking skills are all methods that can be used with music to help develop discipline and positive self-regulatory strategies.
“Education isn’t just about feeding the brain. Art and music feed the heart and soul.” – Julie Garwood
♬ Multi-Sensory Tool – Musical experiences enhance key skills like spatial awareness, communication skills and storytelling. According to Learning on the Move, children learn through sensory experiences which build neural networks in the brain and “provide a framework for more learning.” Playing musical instruments or simply listening to music can stimulate the full sensory system as shown in this table:
|Sensory System||Multi-Sensory Experience|
|Sound||Listening to music and processing sound vibrations through the auditory system and the entire body.|
|Touch||Feeling musical instruments with hands and/or other body parts (tactile input).|
|Seeing different colours, shades and shapes of instruments and the surroundings. The eyes also track motions and read music.|
|Taste||Tasting instruments when put in the mouth, particularly if they blow into wind instruments.|
|Smell||Smelling different impressions of musical instruments and the surroundings.|
|Movement (vestibular)||Sense of balance when physically moving the body in response to music, or sitting with a balanced posture.|
|Body awareness (proprioceptive)||Sensing where parts of the body are and what they are doing in relation to music, without necessarily looking at the body parts.|
|Interoception (internal sensations)||Physiological sensations and feelings experienced within the body whilst listening to music.|
“Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning.” – Dr Mitchell Gaynor
♬ Activates both sides of the brain – When children listen to music it unites both hemispheres of the brain and releases ‘feel good’ hormones. Music is both a creative and logical pursuit. The right side of the brain is our imagination and creativity, which enables children to do things like feel the vibrations, use their intuition and play music. The left side of the brain is our logical thinking, which enables children to process information, read music, sequence movements and develop vocal skills.
♬ Enhances Brain-Body Connection – Neuroscientists say when children participate in physical activities like dancing to music, they hit their cognitive milestones faster. The brain responds by sending messages to parts of the body to move within the physical surroundings, interact with instruments, communicate with others and so forth. Music affects the development of children’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours and can trigger memories of past experiences, which in turn ignites sensations within the body.
To enhance children’s brain-body connection with music, I encourage games like musical chairs, dancing with scarfs, tapping the feet rhythmically and playing old favourites like the ‘hokey cokey’ and ‘head shoulders knees and toes’. By creating a union between the body and the mind, music develops self-expression; an awareness of how to connect with others using non-verbal cues; and has the potential to improve social skills, body language, self-esteem and much more!
Lastly, I’d like to reiterate that regardless of a person’s age, music has the power to transform our mental state and improve well-being. I hope this blog inspires you to mindfully dance, clap, play, or sing; but most importantly to feel the music from within and have fun!
Miss H ♥ ♬