How Musical Training Can Prompt Emotional and Behavioral Growth In Children
Updated: May 9
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything, said Plato, one of the most respected philosophers of all time. Maybe this is why humans find themselves inexplicably drawn toward music. You probably had music classes as one of your summer camp activities or maybe your kids take music classes now. Some go happily because they are interested in learning music or a musical instrument and for others, reasons can lie anywhere between parental insistence or peer pressure. While it is hard to be appreciative of the activity when your child is loudly practicing acoustic guitar off-key on a Sunday morning, there are many benefits to musical training even if the child doesn’t turn out to be the next Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton.
While there are many benefits to unpack, let’s focus on three in particular. Musical training can help with:
Talking about the benefits in a Washington Post article , James Hudziak, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families who conducted a study into music’s effects on brain, said, "What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument, it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control." In the same article, Hudziak likened musical training to muscle training and said that the brain can be trained for increased function. Let’s get into what this means.
Enhanced Motor Skills
Music and music instrument lessons are supposed to improve motor skills significantly. For example, in this research by University of Texas-Austin, Center for Music Learning, there were two testing groups. The first test group was kids who had piano lessons for two years. The second test group was children who had no formal musical training. Both groups were tested before and after the two year period. It was found that the children with musical training had significantly better and more evolved motor skills. The research states that, “The innumerable opportunities to assess, refine, and time their motor responses to specific stimuli during musical practice and the availability of constant evaluative feedback (i.e., sound) may allow musicians to improve the accuracy and speed of perceiving and responding to relevant stimuli.”
Improved Emotional Growth
We live in a world that is increasingly online, with work from home becoming the new normal. Many studies have indicated a connection between teens with synonyms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and heavy screen time. So how do you better help your children flex their memory and focus muscle? With musical training, of course, which also helps with alleviating stress.
Hudziak’s study also says that music actually helped his test’s subjects become better adjusted or well-rounded. The results were particularly positive in the areas of the brain responsible for executive functioning (think memory, attention span and organizational skills).
Music is also a great outlet for children to learn how to express and manage their emotions. This can be a great way to start a dialogue to help kids understand what emotions ‘sound’ like and how to best express them. Another study at University of Cambridge found musical group interaction (MGI) induced emotional processes that promoted positive social-emotional capacities such as empathy.
Increased Behavioral Growth
In addition to actually helping children and young adults with their emotional functioning, music lessons also help them learn and adapt various new behaviors. A violinist in the school band not just learns the skills to play the instrument, they also learn how to make social connections and be a part of a group.
From one-year old babies onwards, the benefits of interactive music classes point to a better and enhanced communication skills. A study conducted at McMaster University found that one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.
The learning doesn’t necessarily have to be at a very young age. There is enough proof to show a range of benefits due to musical training at any age. From better communicators or increased empathy, there is a whole lot of good that music lessons bring about. Not everything will be taught in the classroom. Extracurricular activities, music and sports included, are of irreplaceable value to children and young adults.
Going into summer, if you are spending a lot of time researching what’s the best activity for your child online, consider typing ‘music lessons near me’ into your search bar. Introducing your child to the world of music will help them blossom into the well-rounded individuals you want them to be. If they turn out to be the next Mozart or Beyoncé, well, that’s just a bonus.