Wednesday, August 20, 2014

3 Big Ways To Boost Your Child's Brain Using Music

I'm guest author, Sharlene Habermeyer, mother of five boys and the author of Good Music Brighter Children and happy to be blogging for Let's Play Music today.   I have spent the last thirty years studying how music affects the brain and I’m convinced there is nothing like music to build a bigger, better brain for children and adults. Why? Because music is the ONLY thing we do that exercises the entire brain—left, right, front and back—simultaneously.

Bottom line: playing a musical instrument it is like giving the brain an aerobic workout accompanied by fireworks!

How does Let’s Play Music fit into all this brain-building activity? This program is so comprehensive in its musical scope that it builds the three areas of the brain most needed for learning: the auditory, the visual/spatial, and the motor cortices.  Let’s talk about each area and how it relates to learning…

Brain-builder #1: Music strengthens the auditory cortex and helps with reading and language…

Did you know that the auditory cortex of the brain is five times smaller than the visual cortex? So it is already established by the brain that we learn more quickly and easily by visually looking at something. But here’s the rub: when a child learns to read, they must use their ears first(auditory cortex) and their eyes second (visual cortex). Think back when you were learning to read. All those letters on the page looked like Greek and it wasn’t until your teacher said the word, and you used your ears, that you understood how to say the word. So the rule for reading is: ears first to hear the pronunciation of the word and eyes second to visually recognize the word. From various brain scans, scientists know that learning musical instrument strengthens all areas of the auditory cortex thereby making it easier for a child to read, tounderstand directions, and to process information in the classroom and elsewhere. It also reaches children who are learning disabled as all learning issues begin with auditory processingor not being able to understand what you hear.

The philosophies of Kodály and the music-teaching methodology that develops and strengthens the auditory cortex are integrated into Let's Play Music classes.  Kodály trains children to sing on pitch without the aid of an instrument. It’s called solfege (read more about it here)  and it takes practice! While singing, children also use hand signs to reinforce the learning. This training strengthens the auditory cortex thus making readingwriting and processing of information easier Aural or listening skills are learned when the child listens to the varying pitch, rhythm and harmony of a multitude of songs. Let's Play Music is an amazing brain-builder!

Brain-builder #2: Music strengthens the visual/spatial cortex and helps with math and science…

Music training also strengthens the visual/spatial areas of the brain. Spatial people solve problems in their minds-eye; they think in pictures; they understand higher forms of math and science and they are usually very creative (they dream in color while most people dream in black & white). Think about Albert Einstein whose visual/spatial areas of his brain were 25 percent larger than most people: he was an accomplished violinist and credits music with organizing his brain and helping him to solve intricate theories and problems. His friend said that Einstein used music for inspiration and that the answers to complex problems came to him in the midst of playing his violin. Studies show that when a child learns a musical instrument it primes, prepares, and develops the spatial areas of the brain in such a way that a child is able to understand science, technology, engineering and math more easily.

Brain-builder #3: Music strengthens the motor areas for brain organization and memory skills…

Learning a musical instrument and being engaged in music develops the motor areas of our brain—which are important for the development and organization of the entire neurological system. Let’s Play Music incorporates both the Orff-Shulwerk and Dalcroze teaching methods—both of which strengthen the motor areas of the brain.  Here’s how:

When a young child pounds on rhythm instrumentsclaps her hands, stamps her feet, snaps her fingers or marches around the room, these activities help organize the brain.  They help the child to remain focused and increase memorization skills. These types of rhythmic body movements introduced by Orff are practiced in Let's Play Music classes.

Dalcroze promotes the use of specific movements called eurhythmics.  Children move their bodies to the beat of the music and the body is trained like an instrument. Many different senses come together in the Dalcroze experience: seeing, hearing, feeling and moving.  Scientists agree that movement is an indispensable part of learning and thinking. Dancing and moving to the music, marching, singing, whistling melodies, humming tunes all boost a child’s language, listening and motor skills. They also help develop physical coordination, timing and memory.

So there you have it. If you want to build a bigger, better brain; one that functions at a higher level; one that helps children to read; increases language development; boosts memory; aids in the learning of math and science; and enhances motor skills—then start learning music. It will be the best thing you do for your brain—and your overall feeling of well-being! Plus, it is just plain fun!

My Book:
Here is a small sampling of what you find in my book to help you and your child on your musical journey:

* Why and how music builds a bigger, better brain.

* How to turn your home into a musical training center with ideas on musical games and activities for your children from utero through high school.
* Ideas to help the learning disabled child.
* How to choose an instrument and teacher, ideas to get kids to practice, and values learned from learning a musical instrument.
Resource Section: The book also has an extensive 50-page Resource Section that includes list of music to play when children are studying, lists of books and DVDs about music, music to use when teaching subjects such as animals, nature, the solar system, etc. and music for every stage of your child’s development.  Also on page 393 check out what I have to say about Let's Play Music!

The book is easy-to-read and loaded with examples and stories that will excite and motivate you to get you and your kids involved with music!

If you are interested, please visit my blog: www.goodmusicbrighterchildren  My book is available here.  

And If you're ready to join a class teaching amazing musical skills, find a Let's Play Music teacher near you now!

About Sharlene HabermeyerSharlene holds a Masters degree in Education from Pepperdine University, Malibu, California and a Bachelor’s degree in Art from Utah State University. She teaches college and in 1999, she started the Palos Verdes Regional Symphony Orchestra. It currently boasts over 100 musicians. She will be teaching at BYU Education Week August 18-22, 2014 (8:30am in the Harris Fine Arts Building, Madsen Auditorium)  

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