Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Music and Children Development.

Music Training Roadblocks: How to Jump-Start Your Child’s Development
By Kimberly Sena Moore, MM, MT-BC

There has been lots of buzz about music training and child development over the past several years. Researchers who specialize in “music neuroscience” are finding all sorts of positive benefits for children when they are musically trained.

For example, did you hear about the article published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience in 2010? Two researchers from Northwestern University, Kraus and Chandrasekaran, found that children who had music training showed cognitive improvements in several non-musical areas--speech, memory, language, attention, and vocal emotion.

There are other studies, too. In 2009, Hyde and others published a study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences that explained how music training changed a child’s brain, enhancing motor and auditory processing areas. And in that same journal, again in 2009, Trainor, Shahin, and Roberts reported findings from their study that showed how music training improved executive functioning skills (e.g. planning, decision making, goal setting) in young children.

So music training is good for our children and their development. This is all well and good…but what about reality? In our super-busy, over-extended, over-booked lives, is it really possible to fit in one more thing?

Dr. Christine Carter, a fellow blogger for Psychology Today, wrote about her own experience introducing music into her children’s lives. She brought up some challenges I'm sure many parents face:

   1. Little to no interest from her children.
   2. Money for lessons and instruments.
   3. Time issues.

These are valid concerns (that, incidentally apply not only to music training, but to any kind of activity a child is involved in--dance, soccer, swimming, theatre, etc.). So here are some ideas that I hope will address concerns you may have:

Little to No Interest

The most important step is to find the right teacher. I don't believe you should force your child to do anything they truly don't want to do. That said, finding a good music teacher can make all the difference in the world. For beginning students (no matter the instrument), you need to find a teacher who will make learning fun and enjoyable.

So where do you find these fabulous teachers? The easiest way is to ask for referrals. Talk to other parents and to school teachers (especially music teachers) to see who they'd recommend. Visit your local music store--many offer private lessons. Also, have a trial lesson with a new teacher--better yet with multiple new teachers!

I cannot stress enough the importance of that first teacher. You want to find someone who will excite that passion for learning in your son/daughter. You want to find the "right" fit.


As a relatively new parent myself, I'm starting to find that you sometimes need to pick and choose what you spend your money on. When it comes to music training, money will be spent primarily on lessons and on instruments.

The good news about lessons is that most new students start at 30 minutes/week (Though Dr. Carter quoted Dr. Kraus as saying that 20 minutes of "music lessons" a day was necessary. Yet I've never known anyone to have daily "lessons"--daily practicing, yes, but weekly lessons are the norm. But I digress...). A 30-minute lesson can cost as little as $15, which may be work-able in many family budgets.

When it comes to instruments, you don't have to buy right away. Many music stores offer rental programs and possibly even discounts if you take music lessons with them. Also, if your child is looking at a school music program, the school may have an instrument for your child to "check out" for the year. Finally, there's always Ebay and Craigs List (the latter being how my husband and I found the beautiful 6-foot Yamaha grand that sits in our living room now).

So, with a little digging and a dash of creativity, you have options for providing lessons and instruments…without breaking the bank.


They say to choose your time carefully--it's the only thing you'll never get back. And many families today are very, very busy.

Here’s a breakdown of your time commitment. Generally, a beginning student will be asked to practice 20-30 minutes a day. Intermediate students maybe 45-60 minutes a day and advanced students 1-3 hours a day (of course, by the time you get to be an advanced student, you've likely been bit with the music "bug" and love practicing that much!).

There will also be weekly lessons. They tend to start at 30-minutes a week, then get longer as your child improves and grows. The maximum lesson time, which starts around high school, is 60 minutes.

Finally, if your child belongs to a school ensemble (band, orchestra, or choir) there will be periodic concerts and, especially in high school, before- or after-school practicing. But the time commitment there varies incredibly from school to school and program to program.

The take-home lesson? There is a minimal time requirement for beginning students. And, as with any other activity, the time commitment will grow as your child improves in his/her skills.

I firmly believe--as a mother, musician, and therapist--that music training is one of the best things you can provide for your child. I hope these bits of information help ease the process and jump-start your child's musical training.

UPDATE: The research keeps pouring in! A study was published just days after this article was submitted that showed a correlation between music training and cognitive performance--even decades later! You can read more about it here.

About the Author
Kimberly Sena Moore is a board-certified music therapist, a mommy, and a soon-to-be-PhD candidate. She writes about music therapy and starting your own therapy practice through her blog Music Therapy Maven. Download her free Productivity Primer and learn 7 tips for getting more done in less time

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