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Year One – Post 14 | Music and Learning

Music has been called “the language of the soul.”  It can bring feelings of peace and energy. Some music can generate strong emotions of anger or confusion, while other pieces give us a sense of harmony, calm or happiness.  It also has an important place in the learning of language.

Music is primarily processed in the right side of the brain.  This is the area of emotion, math, spatial relationships, intonation (the rise and fall of pitch in the sound of your speech,) etc.  Your brain goes back and forth between the left hemisphere – the area of speaking and understanding language, and the right hemisphere – the area of music.

left brain, right brain

Think of it as exercise.  You wouldn’t exercise only the right side of your body?  You exercise the whole body.  Think of music as exercising the right side of your brain. How about the effect of music on your memory?  I bet you can remember what songs were popular when you were dating or the jingles that were played on your favorite TV sitcoms.

When a child is first memorizing their ABC’s, they will sing and associate the song while they are pointing to the letters in the alphabet.  Also, learning simple songs, like Mary Had a Little Lamb, allows your child to hear the same words over and over – which helps increase your child’s sound identification and language skills.  I can’t impress upon you the importance of rhyming skills while infants and children are learning to speak.  Most simple songs use rhyme.

Let’s look at the example of Itsy Bitsy Spider.  The name of the song is using rhyme with the words, Itsy and Bitsy.  Why is this important?  It helps build your child’s phonological awareness. What does that mean?  Children start hearing and sorting out the small differences in sounds starting at birth.  If I say, “Sit,” you will look for a chair.  If I say, “Hit,” you will run and hide.  The only difference in the two words was the beginning sound, but they clearly had different meanings.  So, all this time your baby is categorizing the sounds of his language through “rhyme” and “repetition” in order to make sense of the words that he hears.  When you add finger plays with the songs it helps the child to remember what word or lyric comes next.

So let’s just summarize the benefits of music with your child:

  • Uses the right side of the brain
  • Helps with sound and language development
  • Increases memory skills
  • Provides enjoyment

If you want to learn more about the brain and how music affects your child’s development, check out the My Baby Compass series!


–          Kathryn Thorson Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series

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