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Feel the Rhythm - How Music Boosts Language and Motor Development

Music and songs have been around for as long as we've been able to speak. Who knows, may be even longer! It started as a way to teach and pass on traditions and beliefs to the next generation. Even today, it continues to have an integral role in shaping our perceptions, mood and even learning.

Music builds on rhythm and patterns to convey its message. Langauge and motor development also rely on rhythm and patterns. Research from the University of Washington looked into the cognitive and speech development of 9 month old babies engaged in rhythmic, musical activities and the resulting improvement in speech sound detection and overall cognitive development. According to this research, exposure and engagement with music builds upon pattern recognition skills which are the foundation for how infants make sense of this new world.

But who just sings? Music also makes us dance! And what is dance? It's moving our bodies to a rhythm. Have you ever noticed that some of the best dancers can usually pick up a sport quickly; and vice versa? The better you are at detecting a beat and sequencing your muscles to move in that rhythm, the better you will be in sports. Now, for our children who struggle with learning a new sport, when you challenge them to keep a steady beat, they will often have trouble here too.

The ability to recognize a pattern and keep a beat not only translates to better cognitive and motor development. It also leads to better social problem solving. To be an adept social problem solver, you need to follow a complex series of steps that connect and build off of what happened before. Our communication starts through gestural means, so our bodies need to be able to coordinate these steps together in order to communicate our intention. Some fascinating information about sports, social skills and rhythm can be found here.

It's not all about sports either. Music improves our reading ability by helping young readers learn to recognize and manipulate speech sounds along with connecting speech sounds to print. Dunst, Meter & Hamby (2011) details how early nursery rhyme experiences predicted later phonological and print related abilities. Another summary of related research can be found here too.

Let me know how you and your child bring music into your daily lives. What are some of your favorite songs and genres? Does your child play an instrument? Share your musical experiences below!

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