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Music: The Unsung Hero Of Your Children's Development

The human brain has a remarkable relationship with music that neuroscientists have yet to fully understand. Highly respected institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Wake Forest and many others have worked on figuring out why music does such amazing things for our minds. Physical activity and academics are very important, but music develops the brain like nothing else. Read on!

At dozens of world class medical research facilities all over the globe, there are studies that carefully research how music affects the human brain. All of them agree that music is a primal component to the overall health of our brains increasing brain function, memory, focus, logic, and mathematical reasoning. In addition, music activates chemicals in our brain that create happiness, relaxation, calm, and an overall sense of well being. Singing loud and with enthusiasm lowers blood pressure and strengthens core muscles.

Music is, quite literally, the unsung hero (pun intended) of your children's development. 21st century parents focus on soccer and other physical activities, keeping their children hydrated and fed a gluten-free diet but have overlooked the astounding benefits that go along with learning to play an instrument. When I say astounding benefits, I am not exaggerating. Just a quick Google search will give you enough solid evidence to at least consider that what I am saying is correct.

It concerns me deeply that the vast majority of parents have stopped singing to their babies citing that, "I don't sing well" as their reason. First of all, your baby doesn't know or care if you sing well. The act of hearing you sing literally lights up their brain with activity that helps it grow and develop. Please sing to your babies!

For a time, there was a theory that babies who listened to classical music became smarter. It was called "The Mozart Effect". What researches know now is that any music creates the same response. But when you sing to your own baby the result is something so special that it can not be duplicated any other way. It is rich with personal and primal connections.

Early childhood development experts understand that when you hold your infant close to you and sing the child is getting more than just the advantage of music. They also learn your vocal patterns and hear your heart beat and have the security of knowing you are near. This is a gift that you and your child can share. It costs nothing and the gain is infinite.

Researchers at Wake Forest University and University of NC at Greensboro found that trained musical conductors are much better at combining audio and visual learning cues than those who are not trained. This means that they are adept at using more senses which enhances their ability to learn. They learn better, more completely and more readily, and they don't even realize it. This result is constant across the continuum of human learning. Young children also begin to develop these abilities with exposure to music training.

I wonder why parents aren't lining up to get their children music lessons the way they line up to get them on sports teams? I have a couple of personal theories, and some ways to help you be motivated to find a local piano teacher.

  1. "Jason just played "Ode To Joy" with both hands!" doesn't get quite the same response from others as "Jason scored the winning goal and now his team is leading their league!". It speaks to what we value. We are a nation of sports fans and not so much other activities. Expand your own horizons as well as your children's. Learn to appreciate the effort it takes a young child to combine their brain, hands, sight, and listening skills in order to play the piano with their dominant AND non dominant hand. It takes a bit of skill. This should be admired.

  2. Three year old children can do a good imitation of playing soccer with just a bit of experience, but the same is absolutely not true of playing an instrument. Soccer can look and feel good pretty quickly. Certainly skills develop and strengthen over time, but a true beginner musician sounds like a beginner. We are accustomed to nearly instant gratification and that is simply not possible when learning a musical instrument. Don't believe me? Go to a sixth grade band Christmas concert. Just sayin. But that is part of the beauty of it! Not everything is easy! Music teaches this lesson so very well. Practice and perseverance and patience. Those three things hold a value for all of life and are learned through music.

  3. The myth of the athletic scholarship is pervasive. So many parents are buying into the notion of free college for being good at a sport. The truth is that occurs with 1% of student athletes. So for every really talented soccer player that gets a full scholarship there are 99 equally talented players that do not. Think about this as you pour money into travel teams and private coaches. Not only are the odds astronomical, your child is missing out on other activities that would help them be more well rounded.

I'm not trying to discourage athletics. I myself am an avid hiker, kayaker, and an enthusiastic yogi. I also play tennis and work out. Keeping a body healthy and strong is vital. But every gift I offer to the Lord and my community, every accomplishment I have ever enjoyed or taken pride in began with two skills: the ability to read and the ability to create music. If I could only do those two things I would have a deeply satisfying life.

Playing an instrument takes time but it is a source of joy for all of life. My ninety two year old mother in love was still playing the piano actively just weeks before her death. Your children will remember how to play the instrument you encouraged them to learn long after their bodies leave the soccer field. Give the gift that literally lasts a lifetime! Make music!

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