Music…more than a good time

by Rita Brhel on September 25, 2009

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Note: To get the full effect of this blog post, click here for some background music from children’s artist Roger Day to enhance your reading enjoyment.

I miss Music Mondays. In the tiny, farming community of Hartington, Nebraska, where I used to live, when my oldest daughter was just a baby, there was a mother who would reserve the library basement every Monday for what she publicized as “Music Mondays.” There, babies and toddlers and their parents would sing and dance and play musical instruments for an hour – a free-flowing, no-structure exploration of movement and music. I was only able to be a part of this activity for a short time before my family moved across the state, and our new hometown didn’t have a similar activity for families.

I’ve often thought about starting Music Mondays where I live now but just do not have anymore free time to devote to starting a new venture. But I love music and dancing and how it can facilitate not only attachment and play but also learning, so I make music a part of everyday at home. Singing, dancing, listening to all genres of music, making up silly songs, putting actions to nursery rhymes, watching children’s artists via YouTube when I need a break from work. My kids, ages 3 and almost 2, also direct their own musical play – playing on their toy pianos and turning former oatmeal containers into drums, one will play and the other will turn the pages of a board book and belt out tunes of babbling and incomprehensible words…copying what they see people do in our church.

Music is helpful in good times – and stressful times. I’m often amazed at how well breaking out in song during a tense moment stems the beginning of a tantrum. “We can’t have green beans, because we don’t have anyyyyy. But you can have peas, if you waaaaant,” I sing when my toddlers threatened a pair of meltdowns after I tell them the bad news that there were no beans in the house. “Again, Mommy! Sing it again!” my oldest daughter says, laughing, as I scoop out a spoon of peas. “Again, Mommy! Again!” the youngest mimics. Ah, stress deflated.

And it’s that way for us adults, too. When I need to get something done that I don’t really want to do, like clean the bathroom, putting on music with a fast beat can help motivate me to quicken my pace. When I’m sad, an upbeat song can help lighten my mood. When I’m restless or angry, a slow song can calm me down.

Music is great for not only lifting spirits, resolving conflict, and promoting creativity, imagination, and exercise but also for learning new concepts. Recently, I spoke with a mother who teaches Spanish to children in grades first through third. Music, particularly singing songs, is an important teaching tool for all ages, she said, but especially for younger children because they excitedly join in – unlike many teens who don’t find singing the months of the year in Spanish nearly as fun.

What is it about music that gives it this sort of effect? There’s loads of research. Several studies are mentioned by the American Music Conference at http://www.amc-music.org/research_briefs.htm, including:

  • Middle and high school students who participated in instrumental music scored significantly higher than their non-band peers in standardized tests. There is a correlation between the number of years of instrumental music education and academic achievement in math, science, and language arts.
  • Second- and third-grade students taught fractions through music-based lessons scored a 100% higher on fraction tests than their peers receiving traditional instruction.
  • Collegiate music majors are more likely to be admitted to medical schools than other majors, including biochemistry. Music majors tend to score higher in reading than other majors, including English.
  • Second-grade given piano keyboard training with their math instruction scored 27% higher on math and fractions tests than peers not given piano lessons. Music helps children understand advanced math concepts, including fractions, ratios, proportions, and thinking in space and time.
  • Students given piano instruction for at least three years had significantly improved pattern recognition and mental representation scores, as well as self esteem.
  • Music participants received more academic honors and awards than non-music students. The percentage of music participants receiving high academic marks on their tests and assignments is also higher.
  • Preschoolers receiving private piano keyboard lessons and singing lessons performed 34% higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability, or proportional reasoning – ratios, fractions, proportions, and thinking in space and time – than peers who received only private computer lessons. Proportional reasoning is considered a major obstacle in the teaching of elementary math and science.
  • First-grade students achieving at academic expectation score high on rhythmic tasks, while many of these who score lower on rhythmic tests achieved below academic expectation.
  • High school music students score higher on SATs in both verbal and math than their peers.
  • Collegiate music majors are emotionally healthier than their peers, specifically in performance anxiety, emotional concerns, and alcohol-related problems.
  • Regardless of socioeconomic background, music participants get higher marks in standardized tests than their peers.
  • Hungary, the Netherlands, and Japan are the top nations for student academic achievement, particularly in science, and each have strong commitment to music education – requiring both vocal and instrumental music training in elementary and middle school.
  • Ongoing music and visual arts training helps scholastically underachieving first-grade students not just catch up to their peers in math but surpass them by 22%. In second grade, the music and arts students widened this margin even further. Attitude and behavior also improved.

Wow, makes you want to go turn on a music CD, doesn’t it?

Check This Out!
Roger Day CDs available in the API StoreIf you’re looking for great, family-friendly music, consider purchasing a Roger Day CD from the API Store. The children’s music artist held a benefit concert for Attachment Parenting International at the 15th Anniversary Gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, USA, this year in August. He has a fantastic ability to get kids, and their parents, moving with fun lyrics and catchy tunes.

If you clicked on the link at the beginning of this blog post, that’s the man you hear singing and playing the guitar. A portion of the proceeds from each Roger Day CD sold goes to API, helping to support families around the world through such resources as this API Speaks blog. Learn more at http://www.attachmentparenting.org/apistore/books.html.

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Rita Brhel (94 Posts)

Rita Brhel is the editor of Attached Family magazine and is Attachment Parenting International's Publications Coordinator. She is also a local API Resource Leader. She lives in Nebraska (USA) with her husband and three children.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Summer September 26, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for this. We are a household that frequently bursts into song, but I had not thought about singing specifically for conflict resolution before. I plan to give that a try.

I am a singer, and I remember having a lady at church quiz me about whether I let the baby listen to classical music. I replied, “I’m an opera singer.”. She continued to press about how I really should play some classical music for my son until I cut her off. “No, I mean, I sing opera. The baby has never been without classical music. He was part of the music in utero, he heard me singing through birth, and he came forth from the womb singing.”. Apparently she was so used to arguing that she did not notice I was agreeing.

Now my son sings and plays his little instruments. I think music has played a huge role in the fact that he largely speaks in sentences at 14 months.

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justine September 27, 2009 at 9:43 am

We often have silly singing days…we each pick a genre (opera, country, hip hop etc…) and then try to say everything we need to “in song”. It usually ends up in giggly chaos and a joint decision to just put some music on the computer and jam out! :) There was one hilarious incident during the presidential elections in which we translated the final debate into song…but I won’t bore anyone with the details! And even though I am usually “not supportive” of video games, we did get Rock Band for the Wii and it really brings us together as a family… even the youngest members get to participate at their own skill level (like dragging out the kiddie xylophone or a kazoo)

The point is that singing and music keep our family connected and playing together! Thanks for the great post and the great ideas!

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Leslie October 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm

There is a great new interactive children’s book available on the internet for free download at http://littlebrowndachshund.com/, it’s also available on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5HmpOJc88U. Kids can follow along with audio and animations then download a free song to accompany the story!

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