A child's early years constitute a period of rapid intellectual, social, and emotional development. Integrating music and movement into children's education at this point in their lives is well-established as a great way to maximise this golden 'window of opportunity'. But how does music and movement actually work to benefit a child's early development, and are there some easy ways to build these activities into daily learning?
Mind games: How does music and movement affect the child's brain?
Recent research into early cognitive development has unearthed the substantial impact that music and movement has on a child's mind. Both activities work to stimulate different areas of the brain, subsequently combining to provide long-term benefits for a wide range of cognitive functions. This stimulation also encourages connections between the brain's neural pathways.
Listening to music actively engages both hemispheres of the brain, meaning that left-sided language functions such as grammar and vocabulary are stimulated in tandem with right-sided functions, including intonation, accentuation and processing of audiological stimuli. This comprehensive stimulation enhances language development. This development is complemented by the effect of movement and rhythm on the brain's frontal lobes.
Music, movement and learning: A wide range of educational benefits
In addition to the advantages for early language development, integrating music and movement has a number of distinct benefits for any young child. Research has shown that integrating music into teaching can have dramatic effects on memory, mathematical achievement, and reading ability. Hearing words being sung has been shown to improve a child's ability to distinguish linguistic patterns and develop auditory discrimination.
Activities which regularly involve movement can help kids improve their balance, coordination and spatial awareness. It serves as great physical exercise, which helps release endorphins, thus making kids feel happier and healthier. It's also especially important in developing a child's basic motor skills, as well as helping build self-esteem and improving social relationships with other children.
Combine the two and you'll see music and movement complementing each other in wonderful ways. Kids will start to develop their natural rhythm and will actively engage different senses in their learning. What's more, these types of activities are naturally enjoyable for children and can help to engage those who favour the kinesthetic learning style.
Easy ways to introduce music and movement into the classroom
To a certain extent, music and movement has always been a feature of early learning. For example, young students learn the alphabet through song or create their own dramatic productions. But there are so many other ways to increase engagement through these activities. You could have music playing in the background during lesson time or use dance to learn about other cultures. You could even encourage each child to learn an instrument – the perfect way to combine music and movement.
E-learning software also allows easy integration of music and movement into daily learning, with many offerings using sounds on the computer to complement interactive lessons while demanding quick physical reactions.