Music in the Life of a Child


Lori Andrews


Music is a fundamental and important part of every child's life. Listening to lullabies, hearing music on a favorite TV show, singing in music class at school, and attending concerts in teen years, are all musical experiences that children will carry with them throughout life. These experiences in music function to sooth, stimulate, teach, entertain and inspire children, to name a few. Music therapy uses these musical experiences and builds upon them to accomplish goals that are educational, medical or social in nature.


Music effectively accomplishes educational goals with children. In the educational setting music functions to provide structure, deliver information, and positively reinforce children with developmental or academic learning disabilities in a non-threatening environment. Goals may include improving academic tasks, communication skills, self-esteem, and expression of feelings through music. Academic subject areas such as reading, writing, math and spelling are also addressed through music. Music that contains information and repetition aids in the memorization of educational material. Positive reinforcement of all educational achievements, no matter how small or large, is important. Children receiving music therapy for educational deficiencies are usually accustomed to failure. Positive reinforcement encourages and helps enable children. Instrument playing functions as a positive reinforcement and as a reward for educational achievements.


Music helps to build self-esteem through musical experiences in which the student cannot fail. Music improvisation activities allow for a child to participate in a way that makes them feel successful, which leads to increased self-esteem. The expression and understanding of one's emotions can be stimulated through music listening and lyric discussion. Emotions are personal and sometimes difficult to discuss. Although listening to a song with emotional lyrics and then discussing those lyrics removes the personal discomfort of discussing emotions, if rapport is built, this musical activity naturally leads into expressing and discussing personal emotions and feelings.


Music improves communication skills through music listening, lyric analysis and discussion. Music activities that involve listening improve receptive language skills, an important part of communication. Music makes listening fun as the musical activity itself is reinforcing. Lyric analysis and discussion improve verbal communication skills. This is especially effective when the lyrics chosen to discuss come from a song that is preferred by the child.


Music is effective in the medical setting. It is used to treat children as young as premature babies all the way up to the age of eighteen. For these children music has a great effect. It decreases anxiety, pain perception, heart rate, rate of respiration, and length of hospital stay. Music also increases relaxation, stimulation, autonomy, teaches coping skills, and normalizes the environment.


Music for premature babies is used to increase neurological development. This early intervention helps offset the negative effects of premature birth and is highly effective.


Music is also effective in procedural support with children, eliminating the need for sedation for certain procedures. This is very cost-efficient while also physically benefiting the child greatly.


Using music which is live and patient-preferred leads to greatest results. Music that is familiar to children normalizes the environment and reduces their fear. Hospitalization for children is a stressful event. Music helps children cope with their situation and promotes physical and mental health and well-being. A music session which includes familiar songs, familiarizes the environment and decreases fear. Musical activities which allow the child to make decisions promote autonomy. In a medical setting children do not have choices about many things. This along with other factors cause a child to digress developmentally. While a child may not be in control of their medical treatment, music can give them the feeling of being in control when they choose which instrument to play, which activity to do next, or which song they want to hear. Music which is soothing relaxes the child who is sleep-deprived, anxious, or experiencing pain. This relaxation decreases heart rate, respiration rate, and perception of pain. It also can help put a child to sleep. Music also functions as the opposite of relaxation. Children who are hospitalized long-term often lack stimulation in their environment. Music addresses their need for stimulation by changing the environment through different musical activities.


Music is effective in the social setting. Music achieves the following goals: improved self-esteem, promoted independence, developed coping skills, developed interpersonal relationships, and increased communication with friends and family.


It is important to increase self-esteem in children in an educational setting, but also in a social setting as well. Children who have been abused especially need help in this area. A music environment that is structured for a child to be highly successful, and a music environment where positive reinforcement is given freely nurtures self-esteem in a child. Children with low self-esteem are sometimes highly dependant. Music that improves self-esteem, will sometimes promote independence as well. Musical improvisation along with other musical activities encourage independence in children.


Music helps children develop coping skills during times of stress. Many children do not have adequate coping skills, but this is not evident until a child goes through a stressful event. Even small events can be significant and traumatic for children. Through music a child's coping skills can be assessed and also improved to handle stressful life events.


Music increases communication between children and their friends and family. While children are often deficient in effective coping skills, they also may not know how to communicate what they are going through with others. Music helps a child communicate what they are feeling, and what they are thinking about a stressful event in their life. Music also can help a child communicate those feelings and thoughts with parents and others. This leads to a more successful outcome of a stressful event in the life of a child.


Music functions in many different settings in the life of a child. Music is a powerful tool that helps children, and also helps us know when a child needs help. Children experience positive and negative events. Music creates positive events in life that help children cope with the negative events of life.