Singing Can Help Improve Your Child’s Speech!

boy performing

Developing children can really benefit from music – and not just in one way. In addition to boosting their moods, keeping them on their feet and helping to build their confidence, research also shows that including music in a child’s life can also improve their speech.

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Music can improve literacy. “The way we process musical sound is the same way we process speech,” says Susan Hallam, a professor of education at University College London. Because of this, children who take music lessons can improve their listening skills and, in turn, improve the way they process language. Via Globe and Mail

Practically, this has been observed at the Michigan State University Community Music School.

Cynthia Crump Taggart, a professor of music education at MSU who directs the Early Childhood Music Education program, said a growing body of research shows that music can help young children improve their speech.

“Music development flows into language development,” she said, noting that music can help children distinguish sounds and understand language patterns. Via Lansing State Journal

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One possible explanation for this occurrence is that rhythm and cadence are components that exist in both music and spoken language, so that activities stressing these elements help children develop a sense of the ways that sounds are structures. Another interesting theory from speech pathologists is that music also helps a child understand language nuances, such as when a speaker changes his or her tone.

Even though the exact biological reasons for the links between language and speech are yet to be identified, researchers know that the two are processes by the same parts of the brain. In addition, these connections are believed to be strongest during early childhood, when a person’s brain is most flexible.

Another observation made by Kathy Schubert, a speech pathologist, is that the opportunity to participate in music is enough to get most children excited.

She has observed how attentive kids are while sitting in a circle with adults and other children singing songs. And, she noted, engagement is the first step toward learning.

Structured musical activities can also help youngsters develop socially by interacting with other children, she said. Via Lansing State Journal

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The benefits of music for a child’s speech development may not be fully appreciated. In fact, most of the parents that enroll their kids in early music programs do so to develop their musical aptitude; language development is considered a bonus.

However, as the positive impact of music on speech development is observed, programs are now targeting the children that that most need them.

However, the school and the Early On and Build Up programs have partnered to enroll up to 12 children with developmental delays each semester. The arrangement was created after Early On/Build Up specialists observed in other classroom settings how effective music-based activities were in helping build language skills, Schubert said…

Taggart and Schubert said they have found that music class levels the playing field for all children. For example, Schubert said she has observed children who have Down syndrome become leaders in a class by quickly learning to imitate the teacher’s actions during chants and songs. She said she’s also seen children with speech delays utter their first words after participating in the classes. Via Lansing State Journal

Another example of the program’s impact is the story of a girl with autism that was enrolled in the program as a preschooler. She went on to become a member of the all-state band and choir and to top it all off, she also became a high school honor student.

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The mother told Taggart that she attributed the girl’s success to participation in the Early Childhood Music program at MSU.

“I know that what I do makes a difference, but it is always nice to have that confirmed,” Taggart said. Via Lansing State Journal

Although the impact of music is not the same for every child, its ability to enhance a child’s development is quite clear. Further, structured programs are not the only way in which children can benefit from music. Even parents can help their children by making music a part of their home life.

“It can be something as simple as singing ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ while holding your child’s hands,” Schubert said.

Taggart advises parents to play a variety of music in the home, not just pop and children’s songs, but also such genres as jazz, world and classical.

“We know that the richer the vocabulary parents use, the better their children’s verbal skills will be,” she said. “The same thing is true musically.” Via Lansing State Journal

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