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Family Melodies: The Benefits of Hearing and Playing Music

It's so easy to enjoy brain-boosting, fun-inducing musical experiences with your kids.

From the time my children were born, they've been surrounded with every type of music imaginable—jazz, blues, classical, pop, even syncopated ragtime. We could see the change in their little bodies when they relaxed to James Taylor at bedtime or rallied to the Beatles for an after-supper dance party.

Recently, I was at a meditation practice and the leader asked everyone to close our eyes and relax. Then she gently hit a small metal cup-sized bowl with a miniature gong. The beauty of a clear pitch filled the air immediately and vibrated through my skin into the deepest parts of me. As this energy moved throughout my body, I felt relaxed, soothed and renewed. How is such a profound shift in mind, body and spirit possible in an instant? That is the magic of music.

We learn through our senses, and our sense of hearing allows sound to permeate our very being through audible waves. The human ear is a complex organ that transforms these waves into electrical impulses that can transmit to the brain. Music, in all of its forms, genres and iterations, is the human-made experimentation of sound. Our brains crave music because it triggers the release of chemicals that give us pleasure, excitement and satisfaction. Researchers are exploring how music impacts a number of areas of the brain including the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, involved in complex and abstract decision making.

This research shows that the listener of music gets great practice for pattern making and predicting what will happen in the future. This creative thinking process is known as imagining. And if you're a musician, you get additional, equally valuable brain-boosting benefits: Playing music is shown to increase memory, enhance collaboration and communication skills, expand coordination and motor skills, increase reading and comprehension, broaden concentration and attention, and deepen discipline and perseverance, to name a few outcomes. And oh yes, let's not forget the joy music brings to the player.

Here are some easy ways for your whole family to enjoy music wherever you are.

• Share music you love with your children and talk about what you love.
• Create playlists for different occasions and activities.
• Sing, sing, sing—even if you're off-key.
• Dance, dance, dance—even if you think you look funny.
• Find places to take your children for live performances.
• Encourage your kids to play the pots and pans and create simple music with voice and instruments.
• Let an instrument choose your child. Learning an instrument is personal and profound.
• Play music on weekends and in the evenings instead of having screen time.
• Use music for mood setting and transitions for all kinds of situations: calming down after school and work, relaxing into dinner, waking up in the morning, taking a bath—you get the idea.
• Experiment with different types of music in the car on the way to school or on errands.

Said the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.” Need we say more?

_ Susan Magsamen is an award-winning writer and a learning expert. She is an Educational Advisory Board member for The Goddard School, senior vice president of Early Learning at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the founder of Curiosityville, an interactive personalized learning world for young children and families._

Written by Susan Magsamen for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Working Mother