Exposing babies and young children to music has a positive impact on their learning, researchers from Northumbria University will tell a conference this week.
In addition to enhancing their musical development, it appears to have a significant positive impact on their social development as well as literacy and numeracy.
The conference in Newcastle on Friday (10 September) will reveal the interim findings on a three-year study funded by Youth Music involving 750 children from birth to five-years-old in the North East and Great Yarmouth.
The research is being conducted by Jim Clark, the head of pre and school learning and Helen Taylor, head of initial teacher training at Northumbria University.
Funding has allowed trained musicians to go into early years settings one day a week to engage the children in a whole range of musical activity including singing, playing musical instruments and listening to music. The musicians, along with the early years workers, teachers and parents, have been keeping a record of the childrens’ progress. The researchers carried out a baseline profile of the youngsters before the study began and are also tracking their development. A limited number will be tracked through to primary school.
Jim said: “Having trained musicians working with young children on a regular basis is very powerful. It seems to have a significant impact on their musical development and that has knock-on effects on numeracy and literacy.’’
The musical activities have a positive impact in cognitive skills such as understanding patterning (a key concept in numeracy), language rhyming, language structure and anticipation. In addition, music seems to give young children a greater sense of self, develops the idea of taking turns and helps build social interaction.
Helen said: “We all use music in our day to day lives far more than we think. For example, we remember phone numbers according rhythmic patterns. In the same way, children pick up the melody of language long before they recognise individual words and music is crucial in building this.’’
She added: “Music is not always taken seriously and is often perceived as a low-status subject. But this research goes a long way towards proving the need for a sustained programme of musical activity in schools.’’