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Striking a Chord with Music

By Apricus Health

25th June 2020

Music, it is one of those wonderful things that we all enjoy in one way or another.  It’s a fun and exciting way to express ourselves and to connect with the world around us. 

What you may not know about music however is that it is also an excellent therapeutic tool that can be used to build lots of skills in a child’s development, for example:

  • developing motor control, speech, cognition and communication skills .
  • Developing gross motor skills through dancing and movement
  • Concentration
  • Emotional regulation
  • Social skills

How is this you might ask? It’s because when we interact with music, we are stimulating the whole of our brain in a multi-sensory, fun and engaging way to learn key concepts and skills.  This doesn’t mean you or your child have to be a prodigy on the piano or even able to sing.  By merely engaging in music through singing, dancing, clapping or even using a washing basket as a drum, you are engaging in a fun and meaningful activity that can be aimed at developing core skills. 

Now let’s put all of this into context:

Motor Control Skills

Using musical instruments is an effective way to improve motor skills in children.  Using this method of music-based therapy is an effective way to develop a child’s fine and gross motor skills and own body coordination all while actively integrating their entire sensory system. 

An example of such an activity is a drum circle or one on one drumming exercises.  You can set this up with buckets or even spare washing baskets to begin with.  All we are focusing on are the transferable components of beating on a drum.  In this activity you can work on core stability and posture, strength and coordination through repetitive and controlled striking, and even fine motor and finger strength with “pitter-patter” exercises. 

Speech Skills

This can be as simple as singing or being sung to.  Music is a great way to improve a child’s ability to vocalize and pronounce words correctly through repetition, recall and eventually sentence development.  Various nursery rhymes and early learning songs help to develop phonological awareness and use syllables and rhythm to help break down words and sounds.

An example of activities to use here can be singing/reading nursery rhymes with your child.  Songs like “Who took the Cookie from the Cookie Jar”, “Old MacDonald”, “B.I.N.G.O”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or even the “Hokey Pokey Dance” are all wonderful activities to do with your child to encourage speech and language development.

Social and Emotional Regulation

Music is a universal language and a way for us as humans to convey emotion.  It's for this reason that music-based therapy can be used to encourage social skills in children and even promote emotional development.  This is because music offers a chance to explore and express feelings through sound and can teach some very important behaviour management skills and emotional expression techniques.

An example of this in practice is through purpose driven singing and music making.  Open up the floor for your child to express themselves through music.  Explore feelings and emotions using volume, tempo and rhythm to convey feelings and prompt your child to think about how the activity may make them or others feel.  Allow music to create a conversation and guide your child on that journey of self-discovery.

Cognitive Skills

Music is a multi-sensory activity that uses all areas of your brain.  It’s this stimulation of multiple neural pathways that helps to structure effective learning and can help your child recognise and process new or challenging information.  Some benefits music has in the areas of cognitive development are in attention control, planning skills, working memory and critical thinking.

Some activities you might like to try with your child are simple.  For attention you might try and involve your child in conducting or allow them to lead in the music making process.  As they learn to cue others, they are strengthening their attention towards those around them.  Another idea can be to learn sections of a song through repetition.  Nursery rhymes are great for this and you can still break the task up into more manageable bits.

As you can see, there are many benefits of getting involved with music from an early age and hopefully  this gives you a flavour of how music can positively impact a child’s development.  Remember, music is meant to be a fun and enjoyable activity for both you and your child so…… Enjoy yourself!