Research: Informal musical activities can shape neurological development of preschool-age children

Music was my first love… Sorry for the earwig, but it’s true: as long as I remember I have been into music. But music can have a lot of benefits. Annie Murphy Paul just wrote a blogpost on how music can help you remember stuff:

“The best way to remember facts might be to set them to music. Medical students, for example, have long used rhymes and songs to help them master vast quantities of information, and we’ve just gotten fresh evidence of how effective this strategy can be. A young British doctor, Tapas Mukherjee of Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, was distressed by a survey showing that 55 percent of nurses and doctors at Glenfield were not following hospital guidelines on the management of asthma; 38 percent were not even aware that the guidelines existed.”

But the review study I want to share is about music that’s rather informal and the influence on young children, preschool-aged:

“The studies reviewed above suggest that musically rich environments might have beneficial effects on auditory abilities in childhood. We suggest that these effects are not specific to the musical domain but that informal musical activities might promote more general enhancement of auditory processing. Enhancement of these skills may have important consequences for example on the later development of language and attention.”

Abstract of the research (free access):

The influence of formal musical training on auditory cognition has been well established. For the majority of children, however, musical experience does not primarily consist of adult-guided training on a musical instrument. Instead, young children mostly engage in everyday musical activities such as singing and musical play. Here, we review recent electrophysiological and behavioral studies carried out in our laboratory and elsewhere which have begun to map how developing auditory skills are shaped by such informal musical activities both at home and in playschool-type settings. Although more research is still needed, the evidence emerging from these studies suggests that, in addition to formal musical training, informal musical activities can also influence the maturation of auditory discrimination and attention in preschool-aged children.

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