Category Archives: Science of Music

The Science of Music: How Music Teaches Children to Share, Take Turns, and Speak Up

Musikgarten is proud to partner with parents by delivering a highly informative series of publications, The Neuroscience of Music.* If you missed the first series of posts on The Neuroscience of Music, explaining ways in which childhood music education can help encourage a Behavior Wish List from parents, you can find them here.

This is the first of a second set in the same series that focuses on parent’s School Skills Wish List, exploring how music can help parents and childhood music educators prepare children to share, take turns, and speak up.

Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator, points to what anthropologists have discovered. With the nuclear family becoming smaller with fewer siblings, and early childhood friendships limited more to “play dates” than larger neighborhood play groups, the natural societal process has changed in how children learn to work in a social environment such as school. For generations, however, other cultures around the world have been teaching these societal skills through songs, dances, and movement games in which the entire village participated. Coulter contends that these same time-tested methods can be applied through childhood music programs with parental involvement.

The following are facts and information about how to use music, along with movement, to teach these important skills for school:

How Music and Movement Prepares Infants and Toddlers to Become Social Beings

  • Babies and parents practice a “social rhythm,” where within a fraction of a second of interaction, they are imitating the movements and expressions of the other. This “mimicking game” between parent and baby continues and evolves into taking turns at smiling, gestures, mouth movements, etc., building a bond between parent and child.
  • By the Age of 2, children start to show signs of compassion, and parents should support their show of concern for others by modeling compassion at home to help build strong social bonds early in life.
  • Building strong bonds and modeling compassion are the two key practices for building social skills.
  • Many early childhood music programs imitate this “social rhythm,” asking parents to participate by taking turns with small vocal and gestural queues. This eventually gives the child a sense of social awareness of how these actions make an impact in the class.

How Music and Movement Prepares the Preschooler and Beginning School Age Child to Become Social

  • Although it is extremely difficult for parents to do, instilling small wait times before responding to their child’s desires or requests instills the patience it requires to take turns with others. Using call and response songs with children also teaches them patience and how to share and take turns. Early childhood music programs also incorporate movement to these exercises, and parents can do this at home as well.
  • Talk and sing to your child a lot. You are preparing your child to communicate with others and building key reading readiness skills.

Music, along with movement, are important methods of teaching children societal skills such as sharing, learning to speak for themselves, and taking turns. This learning process starts with parents at home through imitation games, which can also be reinforced on a larger scale in early childhood music classrooms.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: Teaching Children to Move with Rhythm and Grace

Musikgarten is proud to partner with parents by delivering a highly informative series of publications, The Neuroscience of Music.* This installment is the last in a four-part set that touches on a Behavioral Wish List that matters to parents – Teaching children to move with rhythm and grace.

Rhythm may be the most important gift you can give your child, according to Dr. Dee Coulter, a renowned brain science educator. The reason is that the frontal lobe of the brain has its major growth spurt from birth to age six, when voluntary movement is developed.  The developing brain must have rhythm to stimulate this important function and growth stage. This “sensory-motor integration” helps cultivate grace, or motor flow, by building the connections between rhythm and movement.

So, teaching children to move with rhythm and grace is very important to both early childhood music teachers and parents alike:

How parents Teach Their Babies Rhythm and Grace

The good news is, they’re most likely doing it already! Mothers instinctively instill rhythm in their babies, establishing a “comfort tempo” used often to help them calm.

  • Simply nodding to a baby shows rhythmic approval and delight
  • Gentle rocking, bouncing, or patting help to comfort babies with a familiar rhythm
  • Humming, finger tapping, or even tongue-clicking are used by mothers get their babies attention
  • Traditional nursery rhymes and songs have been used by generations of mothers to teach their children the love of music and rhythmic patterns.  

How parents continue to teach rhythm and grace to their pre-school children through music:

As a baby’s frontal lobe continues to develop, there are many opportunities for parents, as well as early childhood music educators, to teach rhythm and grace with movement and music:

  • Many infant and toddler games combine music with rhythmic movement. A few familiar traditional childhood songs that teach sensory motor integration are Patty Cakes, and Hop, Old Squirrel.
  • Dancing with toddlers is a great way to teach them a multitude of developmental and social skills in addition to rhythm and grace, including self-esteem, discipline, and improved physical health.
  • Families who have daily activities and routines such as making a bed in the morning, dinner together, teeth brushing before bed, and story time offers a slower rhythmic pattern which helps to reduce childhood stress and supports reading.  

Parents don’t have to do this alone! There are many early childhood learning centers and programs that help parents teach their children from infancy to childhood how to use music to support healthy happy development in the earliest stages of life. Whether it is teaching children to relax and be calm, be patient, control  their impulses, or move with rhythm and grace, The Neuroscience of Music supports the skills and techniques that cultures from around the world have been instilling in their children for generations. 

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: Controlling Children’s Impulses Through Music

Our series of blog articles for parents on The Neuroscience of Music* continues with how music can help parents control impulses in their children, or more importantly, help children to control their own impulses through “inner speech.”

According to Dr. Dee Coulter, a renowned brain science educator, children need to develop impulse control to be successful in learning, social interactions, and performing complex movement tasks. Dr. Coulter identifies three elements of impulse control – the ability to calm, the ability to wait, and one last skill that develops more slowly – inner speech. Our last two blog articles touched on the impact of music on children’s ability to be patient and be calm. This installment focuses on the use of music to develop a child’s inner speech.

Inner speech is a kind of “self-talk” children use to guide their actions. Here are some insights and suggestions for parents to help their child discover their inner speech:

Inner Speech is Out Loud Until Age 8 or 9 – We can hear children speak out loud to direct their actions or narrate what they are doing. In motor tasks, they may use this “outer-speech” as they tie their shoes, make the shapes of letters, or play Simon Says. In music, this self-talk is developed when words are linked to movements like “head, shoulders, knees and toes” or stories in song that are acted out while singing. As the words are repeated over time they become automated. By age 4 or 5, this self-talk becomes strong enough to override temptations and children can use it to control their impulses. Later, children will need this inner speech skill to guide them while silent reading.

How to Teach Inner Speech in Babies and Toddlers:

  • Sing and talk to your baby or toddler often. Research continually shows that the more children are spoken to as infants, the better their language skills will be later in life. Strong language skills, in turn, lead to improved social skills and better listening and learning skills for school.
  • You will probably notice that your baby or toddler reacts even more favorably to your singing voice as they do when you are simply speaking to them. Singing is calming and soothing to them, so they will instinctively pay closer attention. Make up songs to explain what chores you are doing or what is happening in the world around them. Put their familiar nursery rhymes to music and sing them.

Teaching the Preschooler and Beginning School Age Child:

  • To be a great self-talk coach, show them how by talking to yourself out loud. Just talk as if no one else is there and you are just thinking out loud about how to do these things. Narrate for your child as you do household chores, go to the post office, shop for groceries, or watch the activity at a sibling’s sports event.
  • Recalling song lyrics and stories also builds inner speech. Enjoy singing with your preschooler and beginning school age child, too. Help them master the lyrics to traditional as well as contemporary children’s songs. Many of these songs tell stories, or narrate actions. You will be helping your child build impulse control and perform better in school.

Teaching your child to perform self-talk or inner speech, through music has many lasting benefits, including problem-solving, patience, confidence, and impulse-control. Hearing music and songs from caregivers from the earliest ages help to teach children to sing or talk through everyday tasks. Children’s song lyrics are often a manifestation of describing actions or stories, which help them begin to develop their own inner voice.  

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: How Children Learn Patience Through Music

This second installment in our series of blog posts on The Neuroscience of Music* explores how music can help parents teach their children to wait and be patient. Boy, have parents been waiting for this one!

Researchers often call it the ability to delay gratification and say that it is the single most important requirement for developing impulse control, for resisting addictive behavior, for handling the confusion of new learning, and for setting goals and working toward meeting them. While this desired behavior can be taught to children, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

Using Negative Strategies are Ineffective – If we get overly firm and insist on making a child wait, they will see no point in waiting when we aren’t around to discipline them. We want them to be able to practice patience on their own:

  • Make sure there is enough for children to share once their turn comes. Whenever there is too much scarcity, children will learn to take what they need as soon as they get the chance.

Teaching Babies and Toddlers to Wait – There are some simple exercises and “games” that stretch the moments of anticipation of delight.

  • Songs and movement games are helpful in creating anticipation and embedding small wait times. Who can forget waiting for the POP in “Pop, Goes the Weasel,” or the anticipation of the fall in “Humpty, Dumpty?”
  • With infants also play little movement and touch games, such as circling your finger around and then gently landing it on their nose.
  • Use reward to encourage patience. Toddlers may learn the patience it takes to put on a coat or shoes if they know they are going outside to play. Baking cookies teaches them that waiting patiently has it rewards as the warm goodies come out of the oven! Of course, it is also tough for adults to wait for the cookies to cool!

Teaching the Pre-schooler and Beginning School Child

  • Sing songs with your child that involves claps, pauses, and exact timing. This not only teaches patience and anticipation, but will also help develop a strong sense of rhythm.
  • Create some family times that involve some kind of ceremony, such as setting the table before dinner or saying the blessing before digging in. This teaches pre and school age children that there is a waiting period before the gratification of eating, etc.
  • In anticipation of a coming event, such as a birthday or another special occasion, mark a calendar and observe each day with anticipation to the BIG day. Think the 8 days of Hanukkah, or (sing) the 12 Days of Christmas. Saving up or preparing for an event can also teach patience, such as saving money for a vacation, or buying presents for a future event.

As you may have noticed, the exercises above not only teach children to wait, but also can have the same effect on parents! Those of us who already have children know the importance of patience, and that we should always teach by example.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.