What music does to your brain and the brains of children…

When human brains are exposed to music it is not just one part of our brain that is activated – when we observe brains listening to music via an MRI machine it is clear that many different parts of our brains are being used to process the music – regardless if the music is Baby Shark, Beethoven or Kiss.

Being exposed to music helps children form strong neural pathways. It enhances different parts of their brains such as the frontal lobe which is so important in cognition and executive functioning.  The temporal lobe, where language is processed helps process the lyrics we hear. The area of the brain called Broca’s Area is called upon when we play an instrument – doing this encourages expressive language development.

Music for the Brain

Music also helps build intimacy which brains love! Families often sing to babies while caring for them, introduce the music they love to older children…..and who doesn’t dance and sway a bit when they are holding a baby and music plays? 

As you would know, children are born with many more neurons than are needed. Gradually from about the age of 8, neurons are pruned by our brains with the ones no longer needed being removed. Teaching children music before this happens means it is easier for them to retain what they have learnt.

Did you realise that the early years are therefore critical to developing a child’s musical skills? They are also crucial years because when listening to music very young children and babies unintentionally differentiate things such as frequency, tone and melody. They unscramble the different parts of music and then build up a mental organisation system to memorise it. Without this exposure in their earliest of years they never build this important mental filing system. It is very much a use it or lose it scenario.

But music also matters for our brains as educators and teachers. It can help tap into and calm fear, it can increase our pleasure and help us tune our unwanted distractions and focus fully on different tasks. There is also some evidence that it can boost our immune system!

Reflective questions:

§  How do you use music to prepare your brain for educating and teaching? Are you aware of the impacts of different music on your brain? 

§  What opportunities do you build into your days for children to experience dance, listening, instrument play, singing, performing and creating music? 

§  What do you know about Aboriginal AND Torres Strait Islander music? How do you use this music in your curriculum? 

§  When was the last time you carefully observed the children in your group’s reaction to different music? How can you use that knowledge either for individual children or for the entire group?

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