Can music make my kid a genius?
Written by: Ashlee Cramer, Zumbini Program Creator
We all want our kids to be GENIUSES, right? I mean, our kids ARE amazing and exceptional and gorgeous, and even though we are way too humble and polite to say it out loud, of course, our own children are simply perfect!
So, why should we offer them music/movement classes at an early age? Hasn’t the famous “Mozart Effect” been refuted? Maybe we should stick to Mandarin, gymnastics and swim classes to stimulate brain, body, and survival right? Maybe an occasional yoga class so they learn a little mind control along the way?
Guess what? In fact, even without the so called “Mozart effect”, music is still EXTREMELY beneficial! It is true that somehow the whole “Mozart-makes-your-kid’s-IQ-shoot-through-the-roof-thing” got a little blown out of proportion and maybe made some of us a little skeptical about the effects of music and movement programs at an early age. But, the truth is, it has been proven, time and again, that music DOES really and truly promote cognitive development (brain power!), motor skills (physical development and coordination!), social skills (even if they are too young to “socialize”), and emotional development (most of the time in a mommy and me music program like Zumbini, good old fashioned happy, joyful fun and smiles!).
In 2016 there was a study at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute. They showed (yet again) that musical experiences in early childhood actually accelerate brain development (YES!), especially in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills (double YES!!!)!
When the Mozart Effect was determined “invalid”, Norton, Winner, Cronin, Lee, and Schlaug wanted to see what they could find out. They still believed in the benefits of music, so they did more research. Thank you, by the way. Not surprising to all the music teachers and music makers of the world, their results showed beyond doubt correlations between music perceptual skills and both non-verbal reasoning and phonemic awareness. They proved that music in children’s lives, including EARLY years, helps to develop: Memory. Perception. Language. Vocabulary. Spoken skills. Reading skills. Boom.
Wonderfully, in the first 3 years of a child’s life, ongoing research stresses the deep impact of “nurture” on a child’s brain. (I say “wonderfully” because these are the years we still have some sort of control over those growing, developing human beings! They are not yet taking the car keys and walking out the door!) “Nurture” can be replaced by “educate”, “foster”, “care”, “cultivate”, “nourish”. At this age, the brain is a sponge. Literally. Well, ok, not like Sponge Bob, not that literally! But there is something called “neuroplasticity”. The brain can change and make new neural connections. We all have these neurons from birth and they make connections based on what we experience. The more connections that are made, the better. Babies have more neurons (so more possibilities of neural connections), on average 41% more, than adults, because their brains are just developing. All of the early experiences and social interactions play an essential role in shaping the actual physical architecture of the brain, the gene expression, and biological processes. Put simply, this means the development of a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development, are based on what a child experiences. Our brain’s “shape” comes from experience, as much as genetics. Oh, perhaps we CAN create geniuses! AND, music can help us facilitate this.
More! Music gets the body and mind working together. Music helps children learn the sounds and meanings of words. Dancing to music aids children in building motor skills. Music allows children to practice self-expression. Music strengthens memory skills (that goes for us grown-ups, too!).
Daniel Levitin, a prominent psychologist from McGill University in Montreal, studies the neuroscience of music. He has shown that the brain, when listening to music, gets activated in so many different regions- not just the auditory areas we would expect! The brain regions involved in movement, attention, planning and memory all regularly showed activation when the study participants listened to music — and as I said before, these are structures that don’t have anything to do with auditory processing itself. Oh yes, and music unifies us. There is some magical, really special unifying power that comes from the music…. It is like nothing else in this world……….
I have not yet even mentioned the benefits of the bonding between caregiver and child. I think that is a whole other article!
So, music may just make my child totally awesome! I am heading to my Zumbini class RIGHT NOW! Maybe it is not too late to make me a genius, too.