Music and rhythm are all around us, in fact, we live in a world of sounds, rhythmic patterns and creative movement. The rhythmic sound of a breeze and accompanying rain, the melodies and rhythm of passing days and seasons form a biological order and at the same time touch our senses. Music with creative movements is essential for all human beings and it needs to be included in the early stages of their lives. “Music is the universal language central to every culture of the world. Research evidence now suggests that the musical arts central to the cognitive process and dramatically impacts the functions and systems responsible for all learning. Music reduces mental fatigue, calms tension, focuses thinking and greatly impacts creativity and sensitivity.”
Infants start their communication with parents using sounds and movements. They learn to communicate this way with the help of their parents’ or grandparents’ lullabies or creative dance moments while holding the infants. That experience is considered as the first gateway way for children tothe exciting world of music and movements. Creative movement to music helps children to explore the worlds of movement and music and their connection with each other.. Moreover, creative movement can fill children’s minds with a positive energy that helps them to explore creative experience. A child develops and explores his innate creativity when he responds to sounds with motion regardless of age, gender, race or developmental stage.
A child who indulges in musical experience with creative movements can:
- participate in groups effectively
- develop social skills
- improve self-concept
- improve listening skills
- refine the awareness of movement and body positions
- develop creativity and imagination
- learn new words and concepts
- enhance motor skills
- improve balance, coordination and rhythm
A position paper submitted by National Association for Music Education (NAME) in 1991 clearly stated that responding to music with creative movements has the power to enhance children’s creative abilities. The paper also raised the issue of incorporating music with creative movements right from the beginning of a child’s education. With the effective use of music and creative movements, we help children to grow and develop emotionally, imaginatively, socially and cognitively.
Why Music with Creative Movements Is Important
Questions have been raised from all around the world regarding the importance of music with creative movements in a child’s life. National Association of Music Education (NAME) submitted a position paper in 1991 conveyed the fact that music with creative movements like clapping, swaying or dangling from one side to another helps in the development and growth of a child’s brain. Citation needed.
For a music and movement program to be considered comprehensive, some vital components need to be involved. These include listening to music, singing, moving to music, and playing instruments.
A research study conducted by Howard Gardner (American developmental psychologist) in 2006, strongly supported the assertion that music and movement help in the brain growth and development of children. According to the research, multisensory musical traits that involve oral, visual and tangible movements result in critical growth spurts in the brain. Similarly, multisensory musical behaviors that involve singing, moving, playing musical instruments, and listening result in a . vibration on the right and left hemispheres of a young child’s brain and thus optimize learning activities.
A great deal of exercise shows that music activities engage the left, right, front and back portions of the brain. In fact, studying music involves more right and left brain functions than any other activities measured.
Music with Creative Movements and Brain’s Development
Brain is the central part of the nervous system that directs activity for the human body. The functioning of a human body directly or indirectly depends on the brain, and it is connected with all the other body parts, including the complex nervous system and nerves.
An average of over 100 million neurons is found in our brain, each is linked to other neurons. Various experiences a child receives in his childhood result in the effective use of these neurons. Continuous usage makes the connections between neurons stronger. This incessant usage of neurons results in the development of a brain many times better than a child who does not indulge in these childhood activities.
One of the most effective ways to develop and create synapses, or bonds between one neuon and another, is to give a child experiences with music and creative movement. The more connections a neuron forms, the better the brain is ready to receive many kinds of information and handle them effectively. This results in immense brain development. Technological advancements greatly help brain researchers to find the cause of early development, including intellectual, social and emotional development.
During the first few years, a young brain mainly concentrates on building complex networks of brain structures and functions. Early childhood experiences influence the process of building the complex brain structure that is essential for mature thought process to take place. Hence, early experiences play an important role in shaping the architecture of the brain system and also the nature and extent of the future capacities.
Much of the brain’s development happens in the early stages of childhood. There are more neural activities and the formation of synapses in child’s brain with respect to adult’s brain as the child’s and adult’s brain are entirely different from each other with respect to structure and form. The more a child indulges in activities, the better the brain engages in neural activity and results in brain development. During the first decades of life, a child typically has up to twice as many neural activities and connections as adults. Brain tissues and memory storage regions gain functional power and change in morphology as a result of stimulation and use.
Musical experiments with creative movements by an individual are coded in the brain as: auditory, cognitive, visual, effective, and motor systems.In other words, it is a multimodal display. As we discussed earlier, the right and left hemispheres of the brain take part mainly in the process of handling the musical experiments and rhythmic movements. As the brain processes these experiences, it develops more dendrites and synapses with other brain cells. When children spend more time in creative movements than adults do, their higher brain functions will also develop abilities to do intricate reasoning more than adults who have not had these experiences. This is because, the pathways used for both music and reasoning are almost the same in our brain. When we experience the rhythm of music and move according to the beat, the pathways for spatial reasoning are opened and ready to be used.
The type of music a child is experiencing also has an effect on the level of brain development. Scientists like Schlaug and others conducted research of how musical experiments with creative movements alter the morphology of the brain. They conducted some experiments on some keyboard players. The result of the experiments was that, the level of gray matter found in the professional keyboard players in parts of their brain was more than the part-time and non-musicians. The research threw light into the findings that musical activities and creative movements have the ability to alter the morphology of the brain.
Especially in education scenario, a concept known as hemispheric localization was very popular in 1980s and 1990s. People, including educational trainers, believed that some educational activities help to develop right side of the brain and similarly some other activities are helpful in the growth of the left side of the brain of the children. As a result of the belief, children during those times were encouraged by their parents and teachers to indulge in certain kinds of activities in a balanced way in order to develop the right and left side of the brain simultaneously. However, later, the concept of hemispheric localization faded out with the finding that both the hemispheres of the brain respond simultaneously to musical triggers entering the brain. It was found out that neural connections that support music are collectively distributed over the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Along with that, music with creative movements helps to accelerate sub modules in the brain such as musical syntax operators, timbre operators and rhythm operators. When a child listens to “Johnny, Johnny, Yes, Papa” and moves according to the rhythm, various sub modules in the brain are coordinated in a synchronized manner. This results in the development of brain tissues.
Songs, movement and musical games are brilliant neurological exercises vital to intellectual development. “By combining rhythmic movement with speech and song, we are giving the young children the opportunity to develop their minds, particularly in the areas of “inner speech” and “impulse control”, which contribute to language development, self-management and social skills”
Let us see in a nutshell some of the points related to how music with creative movements enhances the brain development of children.
Music with passionate movements helps to generate sudden growth in the brain which help to enhance the qualities needed for a child to listen, read, write, anticipate, remember, recall and concentrate.
Creative movements, which are the indirect outcome of music, help children to control their bodies and also help them to bcome familiar with their left and right sides. Understanding left-right orientation is crucial for reading as well as writing.
Music and rhythmic movements enhance parts of the brain specialized in emotion and memory.
Music and creative movements develop the self-control traits in human brain. Children practicing music and creative movements gradually develop self- control which enables them to carefully move their bodies or raise their voice while participating in a musical activity.
Music with rhythmic movements leads children into the world of language and sensory-motors skills spontaneously
Music enables children to move rhythmically; hence they develop logic and rhythmic skills during their early stages of life. Gradually, children learn to solve problems effectively.
Music helps a child to learn his language swiftly. Music with creative movements helps language to feed into the brain of a child more quickly than any other creative programs.
Music helps a child better understand the math principles like fraction, geometry, and proportion effectively because the child develops spatial-temporal ability due to the continuous musical experiences.
Music with Creative Movements and Memory
Music with creative movements has the magic of enhancing the brain memory system of children and even adults mainly in two ways. While the children indulge in musical experience accompanied with creative movements, the musical experience activates the part of their brain responsible for attention. Secondly, musical activities enhance the multiple memory system of the brain that result in the advancement of memory, including recall and retention.
An interesting study conducted by McMaster University in Canada successfully stated their hypothesis statement, “Music enhances memory in children.” The research was led by Dr Laurel Trainor, professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior at McMaster University, Canada, and Director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind. The team conducted the study using 12 children aged between 4 to 6 years old. The children were divided into two groups, six members in each. The first group was made to listen bursts of white noise and the second group was exposed tones of melodious violin everyday for fixed time for a period of one year. The experiments were conducted to analyze the difference in memory enhancement in both the groups. The team of researchers measured small magnetic fields outside the head using non-invasive brain scanning technology called magnetoencephalography (MEG). The result of the study was that the memory of the second group had improved much better than the first group. Children in the second group showed improvement in multiple areas like literacy, verbal memory, mathematics and general IQ. The study reinforced the concept that continuous exposure to music in the early stages of life improves memory.
Another study conducted by the University of California Irvine in the same subject declared that continuous listening to Mozart helps children to improve their scores in their memory test.12 The study also showed that children exposed to Mozart could recall the shapes and patters better than those who were not exposed to music. Hence, the conclusion is that music with creative movements enhances memory of children better than silence or background noise.
Classical Music and Brain Development
Listening to classical music like the works of Mozart increases a child’s intelligence. Several studies show this. In one study, a group of students listened to music by Mozart for a while before they took an IQ test. The experiments conducted found that, the IQ of students who listened to classical music was higher compared to other students who were not.
Some claims have not been validated by research. One example is the claim that listening to classical music regularly increases a child’s intelligence for life. The notion was not supported by scholars even though it had been celebrated by the media and they gave the name of the notion as “Mozart Effect.” Citation needed.
Hence, we can conclude by saying that listening classical music has a different impact on a child’s brain than listening to other kinds of songs. However, this doesn’t mean that experiencing other kinds of music would not help a child. Poetry has rhythm and also has the power of language. Poems that rhyme are good to begin with, as they help children get the feel, pulse and rhythm of the words. Involvement in music-related activities helps a child to develop relaxation, freedom of expression and improved awareness of their own bodies.
Investigations are still trying to define clearly the role of music with creative movements in children’s brain development. However, most of the conducted researches in the subject concluded that music and movements activate certain parts of the brain. Studies have found that the temporal region located in the left side of the brain is more activated when a child learns the lyrics of a song. Similarly, the right side of the brain gets stimulated when a child sings a melody.