Tag Archives: Music Education

Issues in Early Childhood Education:

Understanding Music Nourishment in Children

In our recent blog, we began a series to explore some key issues facing teachers of childhood music education. This installment will continue the series by first shining light on some false assumptions often made about how children’s music teachers can measure whether their students are getting musical nourishment from their class. These falsehoods include statements such as Music is about performing, and You can’t tell what a child is taking in, or You can only measure what the child produces or puts out. The observations and conclusions concerning these assumptions are based on an article by renowned neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D.

When considering nourishment for the human body, we do not need to measure food as it comes out to understand what went in. It seems silly then, that a child’s music nourishment can only be measured through performance. Dr. Coulter suggests that teaching music nourishes children in three ways: Their souls are nourished by the music itself, their bodies are nourished by the graceful movement, and their minds are nourished by the rhythm.

  1. Music feeds the soul of Children – It is important to choose the right kind of music to feed children’s souls. Music that lives in a culture has been loved for generations and makes one want to sing it over and over. Such music provides an opportunity to invite the soul to rise up and lift hearts, and music educators should embody those feelings when offering them to their students.
  • Music nourishes children’s bodies – Inviting children to move, but not just any movement, is important to nourishing their bodies. It is well known that rhythmic movement through music can help with anxiety and learning in children. When showing movement to children, music teachers should resist the urge to divide it into a series of frozen poses, which kills the graceful flow of the movement and creates a self-consciousness that may cause the child to lose their innocent wholeness.
  • Music feeds the minds of children – To nourish the minds of children, music educators need to offer rhythm, whether it’s through the steady beat of movement or syncopated beat of words. This pulse that gives life to the music is vital nourishment for a child’s brain, inspiring their hearts while stimulating growth of the frontal lobes.

The amazing gifts music offers children’s frontal lobes

We know that the frontal lobe in children’s brains is undergoing its main growth spurt between the ages of two and six, and does not surge again until almost 20 years of age. The frontal lobe thrives on rhythm and establishes a kind of “executive headquarters” for children who have been given a measure of rhythmicity, grace, and motor flow during that important growth period. The importance of this stage of nourishment is highlighted by just a few of the other amazing things the frontal lobe allows children to do:

  • Work with patterns and designs
  • Handle complexity and tap into higher order thinking skills
  • Plan ahead
  • Think about the consequences of actions before doing them
  • Developing “inner speech”
  • Develop impulse control
  • Have empathy for others
  • Maintain alertness
  • Sustain concentration
  • Develop a sense of initiative
  • Handle confusion and chaos without panicking
  • Work cooperatively in groups.

It’s easy to see how important development of the frontal cortex is during early childhood, and children’s music teachers can provide important nourishment to soul, body, and mind by lifting the hearts of children though modeling the love of music themselves.  

This series of articles are based on the article DEFENDING the MAGIC: CURRENT ISSUES in EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, which appeared in Early Childhood Connections and written by Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. For more information on Dr. Coulter and her insights into early childhood music education, visit https://embraceyourbrain.com/    

Issues in Early Childhood Education

Most teachers, especially teachers of children, will attest that they did not get into education for the money. In an Association of Teachers and Lecturers survey, 80 percent of educators said that they teach because they enjoy working with children, while 75 percent said they were motivated by a desire to make a difference for children. The combination of these two factors can be credibly linked to the amount of passion a teacher has for their job. Nationally recognized neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D., notes that this passion is amazingly frequent among children’s music teachers. Teachers with passion inspire students to seek and experience new ideas. Therefore, it’s a motivating factor that is necessary for high quality learning and teaching. Over the next several weeks, Dr. Coulter’s writings will guide us through some key issues these early childhood music teachers face, while exploring ways to meet these concerns.

Whatever Children Can Learn, They Should Learn – and the Earlier the Better

A young child’s way of learning is one of absorbing what is around them in an unpretentious and almost unconscious way. As such, they are so busy observing the world around them that they do not yet notice caregivers and teachers observing them. As this point, it does not occur to their wonderful beginner’s mind to begin observing themselves. It’s important for children’s music teachers to keep things this way for as long as possible, for as they become self-conscious, children’s minds give way to reasoning and shift to a more impressionable approach to learning

The earlier stage of innocence is where passion for teaching music to children plays a most important role. At this point, they are still deeply impressionable, absorbing the educator themselves as much as what is being offered. Therefore, strive to offer children only the most inspired musical experiences that you really love, so that their early learning minds sense that joy and enthusiasm. Watch what they are inspired by, paying close attention to their responses. If there are things that do not inspire them, trust their taste. Young children are instinctively drawn to what they need next in development. This will give the observant music teacher clues as what to teach next and what to postpone. At this point, your passion is what you want to inspire in children, because it will expose their minds to that same excitement and a long-term love for music. 

Children in a Musikgarten Toddler Class
Children in a Musikgarten Toddler Class.

Most Children do not have to be Taught How to Pay Attention

It’s a fallacy that most children have short attention spans and therefore need to be taught to learn from a music lesson. If provided fundamentally nourishing information in a passionate way, there is an amazing quality and duration of attention children can give in early childhood music classes. Rather than trying to teach children to listen, music teachers should offer something welcoming and playful that engages their interest and sustains their attention. If offered activities and objects in a nourishing environment, children exhibit surprisingly long attentions spans. In fact, music therapy is often used with children that exhibit developmental disabilities such as ADHD or Autism to grasp and hold their attention. Passion again has a key role to play in teaching at this point.

Over the next several weeks, we will continue to explore several other key issues that early childhood music educators and studio owners face when instructing children. To effectively address all of these issues, passion is perhaps the most important tool a teacher can have to inspire young minds to also love music. A young child’s mind is constantly open to new and exciting concepts without bias, instinctively picking up on a music teacher’s enthusiasm and excitement. When music is provided in a fundamentally inspiring and nourishing way, children have a great capacity to pay attention for long periods of time and absorb information.

This series of articles are based on the article DEFENDING the MAGIC: CURRENT ISSUES in EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION, which appeared in Early Childhood Connections and written by Dee Joy Coulter, Ed. D. For more information on Dr. Coulter and her insights into early childhood music education, visit https://embraceyourbrain.com/    

Nurturing Customer Relationships with Music Students and Parents

While we are by no means out of the woods of this pandemic, the recent vaccine news gives us all some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Predictions for when we can safely resume normal activities vary from early Summer to the end of 2021. Depending on the state in which their children’s music studio resides, and personal preference, early childhood music program teachers will have a degree of flexibility as to when they can begin to offer in-person learning. For many educators, this time after a long and painful separation from beloved students cannot come too soon. With this anticipation in mind, studio owners and teachers can be marketing to return with a large number of enthusiastic students and parents.

Preparing to Return to In-person Children’s Music Classes

Many owners and teachers of children’s music studios have been offering online classes for students and parents during the pandemic, but most all agree that in-person teaching is preferable. So, in order to transition to a robust return to an in-person classroom setting, here are some marketing tips to consider.

  • Existing and Past Customers – the Low Hanging Fruit Most of us have heard the marketing adage that it costs five times as much to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one. Focusing efforts on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) rather than new customer acquisition begins with developing and managing your Customer Relationship Database (CRD). A CRD is basically a customer contact list with other customer characteristics. Business owners can start compiling a database by dusting off old customer records and creating a single list of customer contacts with whatever information you may have, whether its mailing address, phone number, email, or a combination of those. Spreadsheets are very handy for this, and can also include children’s names, their age and level of music education, etc. Please keep in mind that this kind of information is very sensitive, so it’s important to take precautions to safeguard access to the list.
  • Categorize Your Contact List – Some music studio owners may haveyears of contact records witha mixed bag of phone numbers, addresses, and or/emails. You will want to separate your CRD in as many like groups as possible. Contact method is a good way to start because it often dictates how you will contact your customers in marketing campaigns. Start with emails first, because it is still one of the most cost-effective way to reach customers. Depending on how you decide to use phone numbers, group texting can be very cost-effective (but be sure to set it up without all reply), but does not work on older landlines. Addresses for mailing programs would be the least cost-effective method of contact because of postage costs. You may also want to then categorize your customers by former and current, past purchases, or music program level. Keep in mind that just because someone has not been in the program for five years does not mean they are not a valuable contact.
  • Plan and Execute – A robust and well-organized Customer Relationship Database does no good if it is not utilized. Once your list is compiled and organized, put together a plan on how you will execute your marketing efforts. How many categories do you have with each contact method? For example, emails for current customers vs. emails for past customers.  Marketing messages and “calls to action” for each category will vary, with current customer emails encouraging new class sign-ups, while past customer emails may ask for a referral or testimonial. Determine your goals for each category, and what steps you must take to reach them. There are many free and paid Customer Relationship software programs that can help with emailing, texting, and even traditional mailing programs.
  • Messaging the Message – Before pulling the trigger on an email, text, calling, or mailing marketing campaign, you will want to make sure your messaging is clear while matching your various targeted categories. For example, you will not want to ask a past customer whose children are now grown about music classes for their grown children, but you may ask them if they know parents who might benefit from your services. For getting back to in-person classes, write your message as to create anticipation for the upcoming classes. Lastly, be sure to ask recipients to take action in your message, whether it is signing up for a class, going to your web site, or forwarding an email to a friend or family member who might be interested. The bottom line is to create a message for each category of contacts that is meaningful for that specific group.

While cases are still rising, the eventual end of the Covid-19 pandemic is finally coming into sight. In preparation and anticipation for that, now is a good time for children’s music studio owners to gather and organize their customer contact information into a Customer Relationship Database. With this CRD, there should then be a solid plan on how marketing campaigns will be executed, so when the time comes, you are ready.

Musikgarten is the leader in early childhood music education — for children and teachers, that offers a complete multi-year educational program that helps infants, toddlers, and children develop a deep love of music and the ability to express it. For more about Musikgarten and its offerings, go to https://www.musikgarten.org/.

The Role of Music in Early Childhood Development

In this third installment of our series on The Nature of the Young Child, we continue to explore how children learn during the first phases of life, and how the first three years in particular are critical. Based on the pedagogical philosophy of acclaimed educator Maria  Montessori to “follow the child,” there are several experiences that influence sensory and motor development for neurological organization. Caregivers and children’s music teachers can see how music has a role to play in this vital stage of childhood development.

Children Learn Through Movement

Once they have learned to walk, toddlers spend much of their time exploring the world around them. Any parent can tell you that they are constantly on the move, learning to obtain control of their body movements. As a prerequisite to cognitive learning, sensorimotor integration is one of the earliest ways that babies and toddlers learn about their world.  From reaching and grasping to crawling and walking, children are explorers by nature. Through repetition and practice, the toddler begins to unconsciously strengthen body to mind neural connections. Kinesthetic awareness, an inner sense that operates below the conscious level, contributes information about how the body feels as it moves. Such awareness is invaluable to all learning, including music – through movements such as clapping, tapping, bouncing, or dancing.

Listening is the Most Important Sensory Channel for Learning

Formed in utero, the ear is functional at four months after conception, allowing the fetus to begin hearing their mother’s breathing, heartbeat, digestion, talking, and singing. The ear is an organ that never rests, and listening is important to almost all aspects of learning – physical, social, emotional, and intellectual. Music helps children to focus their attention on familiar sounds, whether it is a lullaby sung by a parent or a children’s music class, and helps to teach appropriate interaction with adults and peers.

Shaping Language is the Child’s Great Work

 At the earliest stages of life, children understand that speaking is what constitutes communication in their world. Sounds that come from the mouth such as cooing are very fascinating to babies, eliciting excited responses that begin a back and forth form of communication. In the beginning, tone and inflection are even more important than the words themselves, and infants will imitate and practice sounds as they become excited about their own vocalizations. Music offers a very strong source of pleasure for children, as it soothes, elicits attention, and stimulates response. The rhythm, repetition, and rhyming of music all contribute to a child’s language development as they are allowed to sing to themselves, make up words, and silly noises.

Children Have a Natural Tendency for Order 

As children experience the massive amount of information coming through their senses, they begin to sort, order, classify and categorize. Remarkable because it is not based on any previous experience, this process helps children to understand their environment and how to put persons and things in their accustomed place.  Maria Montessori understood this, and once order is established around the age of 3.5 years, change is better tolerated in the external environment. Music participation and education also helps establish a sense of order through repetition and routine of familiar songs and movements.

Independence and Initiative are the Embodiment of Learning

As children develop through movement and language, they are also beginning to move from total dependence on their caregiver towards a growing sense of self. Parents fully understand the “strong will” of a toddler, and at around 2 years of age, they love to participate in self-chosen tasks. Insisting on completing tasks alone, toddlers are showing a desire to free themselves from dependency. Music can provide a valuable tool for children to explore their independence. For example, playing different developmentally appropriate instruments presents cause and effect as they see what sounds they can make with them.

Repetition is Essential to Learning 

Children love to repeat enjoyable experiences, and this is an important aspect of both learning and teaching. While allowing them to enjoy the experience over and over, the repeated action boosts both cognitive as well as muscle memory. Often with deep concentration, children repeat tasks of their own choosing until they have mastered it and established control. It is then that they look for other ways to put the actions to work. Music is a wonderful tool for providing children with both a repetitive learning task, but also a means by which to take those tasks and add their own creativity.

In the first years of life, children use these mechanisms to understand their world and grow to free themselves of total dependence on others. Music, along with movement, can provide caregivers and early childhood music teachers with powerful tools to assist in this crucial stage of child development. In our next blog, we will explore the role of adults in the child’s environment, and how to encourage these mechanisms for both the physical and psychological well-being of the child.  

 Much of the content for this post was based on the introduction to Family Music for Babies and Family Music for Toddlers, an early childhood music curriculum developed by Musikgarten.

The Philosophy of Early Childhood Music Education Programs

There has been a great deal of research and publication on the importance of music in early childhood development. Whether it is the educational, social, or emotional benefits that exposure and participation in music provides to children throughout their development from birth, there is an even deeper and more transcendent component that is not as easily measured. In the most basic terms, all of these musical benefits are greater than the sum of their parts, and have been ingrained in humanity since the earliest recorded times. This holistic, “whole child” approach is reflected in many of the persons and organizations dedicated to providing parents and families with early childhood music curricula. The philosophy of early childhood music can be seen enthusiastically in the core beliefs communicated by Musikgarten, and serve as a good example of the approach:

All Children are Musical

Closely tied to human expression, body movement is a natural outlet for children to express feelings. Children begin communicating effectively through body language long before they can with spoken language. Parents and adults get a glimpse into a toddler’s perceptions of the world as they observe body language and the child’s musical sounds. These observations illustrate that all children are innately musical from birth, with a biological ability to sing and move rhythmically. When children are exposed to an active music making environment, they learn to make music both freely and naturally.

Music Meets the Needs of Children

Psychological studies tell us that children learn more in a pleasant and non-threatening environment. Music-making is a naturally joyful experience for both children and adults. Furthermore, the combination of music along with movement creates an even more pleasing experience for children and provides important benefits for social development. This is not a new concept, by any means, as music has been a central part of family and community in the varied cultures across the globe. So as children engage and enjoy a musical environment, they are more open and interested to learn about the world around them.

Music Makes a Difference

When we as adults look back at some of the most memorable times in our lives, we hear music. Whether it was lullabies to ease us to sleep, the birthday song, top pop hits of our era, or even a commercial jingle, music has been a memorable part of our lives. But we also saw the funding and emphasis on music education dwindling over the years. The good news is that music is once again being recognized by parents, teachers, and researchers as a way to improve overall development while decreasing learning problems and enhancing brain function. Music touches not just the “whole child,” but also has a positive impact on family and the building of our community. 

Music Making Belongs in the Family

Providers of music curriculum for children understand that parents make the best teachers. In this digital age, with so many online and screen-based offerings, many well-meaning parents have placed too much faith in technology. Often the result is missing out on the joy of simply being with each other. However, parents and the public are becoming more aware of these consequences. As a result, early childhood education programs are making greater strides to provide more opportunities for parents to learn how to interact musically with children at home. These tools encourage and empower parents to reap the benefits of early childhood music from the earliest age.

Programs that encourage music and movement with the family and community can help deepen a child’s appreciation for music and the natural world around him/her, building a foundation for life-long music making. The goal of the most beneficial early childhood music programs is to provide an appropriate musical experience through a carefully sequenced approach towards music literacy, allowing a child to participate fully in musical experiences of all kinds. The first step in this holistic approach to “following the child” through their musical growth starts in the earliest stages of life at home, making joyful sounds and movement together.

The Evidence of How Early Childhood Music Education Helps Students in School

Most parents will tell you about how music is engrained in many of the activities, games, and educational entertainment of early childhood. We may remember the songs of Sesame Street or School House Rock that helped us learn to count, form words, or learn history. Younger parents will remember playing Baby Mozart for their children in the crib, or how music was used in popular educational cartoons such as Sid the Science Kid. For a very long time, educators and parents have understood the value of exposure to music in the earlies stages of life, but an ever increasing amount of research supports that teaching children about music at an early age will give them an advantage as students:

  • A large-scale longitudinal study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience found that structured music lessons significantly enhance children’s language-based reasoning, planning, short term memory and other cognitive abilities. Children as young as 2.5 years old were assessed for academic performance as well as various cognitive skills. It found that children who had received music lessons suggested that cognitive skills developed during music lessons influence their abilities in completely unrelated subjects, leading to improved academic performance overall.
  • Moving in sync to music with others helps toddlers form stronger social bonds, according to a study performed by McMaster University. The study found that toddlers, some of which were as young as 14 months old, were more likely to help an adult pick up a dropped object if they had previously bounced together in time with music as compared to those whose movement was off tempo. This exercise was designed to help infants be better in tune with emotions through sharing songs and music.
  • Music improves baby brain responses to music and speech, according to scientists at University of Washington’s Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS), a series of musical play sessions with 9-month old babies showed an improvement in brain processing of new speech sounds. It is the first such study to suggest that recognizing rhythmic patterns in music can also help babies to detect rhythmic patterns in speech, concluding that engaging in musical experiences at an early age can have a more global effect on cognitive skills.
  • Just listening is not enough. While music has been known to soothe infants and help to create a bond between caregiver and child, a study from Northwestern University revealed that simply listening to music at an older age does not have the same cognitive benefits as being actively engaged in a music class. Researchers found that children who regularly attended, as well as participated in music classes showed larger improvements in how the brain processes reading and speech than less involved children. The role of music and movement in children’s learning and growth is well documented.

The scientific evidence of the benefits of early childhood music classes is continuing to support the consensus that even from the earlies stages of life, exposure and participation in music positively influence cognitive development in children, particularly in the areas of social, speech and reading skills. As a result, these children are better prepared and perform consistently higher in school than their peers.

The Science of Music: Creativity Wish List – How Music Inspires Children to Compose

Our third and final set of The Neuroscience of Music serieshas begun to explore ways in which early childhood music education can help to develop skills from parents’ Creativity Wish List by teaching children to fall in love with music. This second of four installments in the Creativity Wish List set provides insight and helpful instruction on how to inspire children to compose through music.

“Just think about what it means to compose,” poses  Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator, “The child must figure out how to begin, how to develop an idea, how to end it well, and finally, how to get others to join in and play it together.”

  • Through early childhood group classes, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers experience firsthand how music creates community. Performance of music through familiar songs, stories, and dances create a connection with those participating. 
  • Music almost always has a set pattern, a composition consisting of a beginning, a repeated musical idea, and a clear ending. Practicing these musical forms develops an understanding of how music is formed and created. Later in life, this understanding of structure will help guide the child in writing papers, working on a project, giving talks, and developing leadership skills.

How music inspires Infants and toddlers to begin to compose

  • Family life provides the very earliest forms of composition in how we go about the rhythms and routines of our daily schedule. Coaching these familiar “forms” develop a comfort and bond between family and infant.
  • Using traditional songs and music, that have a clear beginning, middle pattern, and end help infants and toddlers to understand the basic structure of music, and when they begin to sing along with or respond to those forms, then they are beginning the earliest stages of composition.

Using music to inspire composition in preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • As children grow from toddlerhood to preschool age, their individual aptitude for certain parts of composition start to reveal themselves. Children who show particular delight or enthusiasm about starting something new, may have a propensity for beginnings in composition. Those who love to work on creative tasks over and over until they get it right may work better in the middle parts, while others may love a spectacular ending.
  • As parents sing and move with preschool and beginning school children at home or in early childhood group music classes, pointing out the beginning, middle, and end parts of the songs or tunes with them helps to instill a better understanding of music composition.

Dr. Lorna Heyge, founder of Musikgarten reminds us that “Just as with language development skills, in order for children to learn creative thinking skills, they need to be involved in situations where creative thinking is both modeled and nurtured.” Participating in musical activities through repeated and familiar songs and dance provide an opportunity for parents and early childhood music educators to understand the patterns and forms of music composition, while inspiring them to explore and create their own.

*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: 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.