Category Archives: Science of Music

The Science of Music: Creativity Wish List – How to Inspire Children to Fall in Love with Music

If you have been following along with us on this informative journey about The Neuroscience of Music, this third and final set in the Musikgarten published series will explore ways in which early childhood music education can help to develop skills from parents’ Creativity Wish List. Don’t worry if you have not read the previous posts, they all stand alone, and you can always go back and read them here. The four installments in the Creativity Wish List set will provide insight and tips into how music inspires children to fall in love with music, compose, improvise, and love nature.

“Music can bring so much joy to a child’s life that it is a wonderful gift in its own right,” affirms Dr. Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator, “but it also has the most “fringe benefits” of all the art forms and activities you could give your child.”

  • Music is often thought of as humanity’s universal language. As children learn songs and dances from around the world, they learn how to connect with different cultures and become world citizens.
  • There are an increasing number of medical applications for music in healing, including the relief of pain, lowering stress and blood pressure, and reducing the hospital stays of premature newborns and surgical patients.

Here are a few facts and information on how to inspire children to fall in love with music from the first installment in the parents’ Creativity Wish List.

How to inspire Infants and toddlers to begin to love music

  • Even before birth, most infants hear and love the sound of their mother’s voice, and research shows that nearly all people who go on to develop higher musical skills in life were sang to by their parents during childhood.
  • Music classes begin with the most powerful expression of parental love cultures have developed – the lullaby. Nothing is more nourishing than this opportunity to soak up the love of a parent through music.
  • The same tonal patterns in songs and tunes are used by different cultures around the world, naturally using rising tones to create and delight infants and toddlers, while using falling tones to calm and sooth them.
  • As your infant grows into toddlerhood, explore different types of songs and music to see which delight them the most, bringing them joy and relaxation. Many parent-child early childhood music classes help parents to explore what kind of music has the most effect on their child.

Using music to build skills that will delight preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • As toddlers grow into preschool age, parents and teachers can use songs, dances, musical stories, games, and other activities to teach children about energy and emotion. Lively songs are often met with happy, smiling movement, while slower, gentler songs can help express calm and even sadness.
  • It can be helpful to match music to your child’s current mood to show how music conveys feelings. If your child is happy, then sing happy songs with them.  Inversely, you can use music selections, songs, and activities to help counter their mood, such as slower, softer songs at bedtime to help them settle down.
  • Throughout history and across cultures humans have shared in songs when working together. Explore work songs with your child as a great way to teach them to enjoy picking up their toys and helping with chores around the home.

Instilling a love of music in your child is a gift that will last their entire life. Even before birth, exposure to music has shown to provide numerous benefits in early childhood, such as improved language development, focus and memory, and fundamental math skills. Taking it a step further, group musical activities in early childhood have shown to improve self-confidence, self-esteem, discipline, and teamwork.

*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: Preparing Children to be Ready to Read

 The Neuroscience of Music*  series of publications explains to music teachers and parents ways in which early childhood music education will help impact the development of children. The Parent’s School Skills Wish List is the second set of The Neuroscience of Music, with this installment exploring how music helps teach children to get ready to read.

Reading is one of the most important and studied skills in education. Dr. Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator points out that many of the key activities that researchers site for helping children prepare to read successfully look a lot like the skills learned in an early childhood music class, such as hearing and identifying differences in pitches, patterns, rhythms and rhymes. Early childhood music teachers and parents can use these methods and activities to help children prepare to read:

How music can offer pre-reading skills to infants and toddlers:

  • An early childhood music teacher will sing Ba, Ba to a baby and soon a response will come back Ba. Over time the response will be more precise with Ba, Ba. The echoing and imitation will progress further, leading to an early attention to language, to form and to the call and response pattern, all excellent pre-reading exercises.
  • Finally, singing simple songs not only soothes infants and toddlers, but also helps them to recognize patterns and words as they are repeated. Lyrics from old folk songs seem to be especially easy for children to recognize, as if their long history has made them more memorable.

Preparing preschoolers to read songs and music

  • The mimicking or “echoing” that works with infants and toddlers can be turned into call and response activities and songs for preschool children. Music works especially well with this exercise and has been used by pre-school teachers to teach children speech, reading, in addition to simply gaining their attention.
  • Songs are very often stories, and help preschool children to follow and understand a timeline, setting, and characters. In addition to reading them stories to begin to teach how sentences and stories are formed, singing familiar and open-ended songs help them to understand how to construct and understand written words. Many early childhood music programs go even a step further, getting the children to act out a storyline set to music in order to further reinforce these valuable skills.

From the earliest stages, songs and music are an important part of developing children’s understanding of language, and eventually reading. Babies respond to the rhythm and melody of language before they understand what the words mean. As toddlers grow into preschoolers, call and response activities such as those commonly used in early childhood music programs help them to understand the rhythm and structure of words and sentences, and how they are formed into songs and written stories.

*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 to Prepare Children to Enjoy Practicing

The series The Neuroscience of Music*  shows parents and music teachers ways in which early childhood music education can help impact the development of children. This second set of the Wish List series focuses more specifically on a parent’s School Skills Wish List. The topic of the third installment of this set is how to get children to enjoy practicing.

From infancy to about the age of 6, children have a unique window of opportunity to learn how to, and enjoy practicing things. Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator, explains that during these few years, a child’s enjoyment of repetition is strong. Parents can help them to practice naturally by providing fun activities that they can eventually master. However, this satisfaction must come from within in order to develop a lifelong habit, warns Coulter, so parents must resist praise, blame or pressure during these activities.

Below are ways that parents and early childhood music educators can use music to help children learn to develop self-discipline to succeed at school, work, athletics, and the arts.

How to introduce the idea of practicing to infants and toddlers

  • In learning basic coordination and language, infants must practice and learn the nuances of their senses in a pleasing way. They are wired to mirror everything they see, and this is highly rewarding to them. Parents and early childhood music teachers can help with imitation games with clapping and pointing to things with exaggerated facial expressions, and they will naturally follow and copy.
  • In the earliest stages of infancy to toddlerhood, parents can perform simple songs and movement games to teach motor skills and instill a familiarity. After a few weeks of repetition, leave a particular game for a few weeks and come back to it. This allows the infant or toddler time to anchor the movements and memory in their system. When the game is brought back, the predictability that goes with recognition and the control that goes with increased physical mastery are very powerful incentives for practicing.

How to teach preschoolers to begin focusing on how to practice

  • Research suggests that poor learners don’t know how to handle the failures of new learning, and so tend to abandon challenges right away for fear of failure. On the other hand, those that excel in tasks and challenges tend to have a passion for practice and truly enjoy the experience – much like the capacity of children’s minds in the first stages of life.
  • Share enjoyable music activities with your preschooler before introducing an instrument. By first instilling a love of music in children before asking them to focus on an instrument helps to ensure that they will enjoy practicing due to its relationship to something they already love.
  • The teaching practice of spiraling, or a pattern of dropping an activity for a period and then spiraling back to it, allows new skills to seat more deeply than constant practice. Childhood music programs  will use this practice along with the process of scaffolding to allow children to learn on their own and provide help at the appropriate times. This approach to creating the basis for more advanced learning is important for advancement in musical skills, mathematics, science and foreign language learning.

Music can be an important tool for preparing infants and toddlers for a lifetime of learning enjoyment. Games that encourage mimicking help to develop a love for practicing from the earliest stages of infancy. By leaving and returning back to activities, children will learn to think and accept new concepts on their own while having pleasure in practicing. This will not only serve them well in music, but also in academics.

*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 Music Teaches Children to Sit Still and Listen

Continuing with the series The Neuroscience of Music*  we are sharing ways in which early childhood music education can help impact the development of children. This second set of the Wish List series focuses more specifically on School Skills Wish List and the second topic in this set explores how to encourage children to sit still and listen

In a world increasingly swamped with visual and noise stimulation, how many times do parents find themselves frustrated and saying to children “Can you just sit down and listen?” The physiological makeup of our ears might provide some insight, explains Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator. The ears actually contain two channels – with one devoted to listening and the other for balance and movement. Young ears must learn to combine these two channels, first by establishing good movement skills and second by developing language skills. As the child grows older, they begin to develop speech and by the time they are four to five years, they can carry on a conversation, tell a short story, and begin to follow directions.

Parents and teachers can help develop a child’s listening skills through music and other exercises and games.  Below are a few ways.

Training the two channels of the ears separately in infants and toddlers

  • Use music games and dancing to create an even more pleasurable experience for the infant, combining familiar music or songs and movement together.
  • To help develop the listening channel of the ears, develop games with tones and simple sounds that the infant or toddler will grow to anticipate. For example, tap a series of three beats on a table top or a small drum head. Then, tap only twice to see their reaction and laughter when the third beat is skipped!

Shift focus when working with preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • When speaking with children at the preschool age, slow down your speech so that the child can process what you are saying at a slower rate. Use descriptions of things and words that they can picture in their minds. This will help them to be able to sit still and listen more easily, which will be advantageous when they begin school.

Training the preschool child to be still and listen involves understanding the difference between the two auditory channels in the ears. By first approaching the movement/balance channel and the listening channel separately, and then combining the two in musical games, the child learns to separate movement from sound at the appropriate times. This valuable understanding will help them learn to sit still and listen at home and in school.

*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 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.