The Music Miracle: The Scientific Secret to Unlocking Your Child’s Full Potential. Moosicology Founder Liisa’s Book Out Now
Tuesday, 03 December, 2013 12:13
Moosicology is pleased to announce the arrival of a new parenting book, The Music Miracle: The Scientific Secret to Unlocking Your Child’s Full Potential.
Written by Moosicology Founder Liisa Henriksson-Macaulay, the book brings the science of music from the academic communities to the family households, answering many burning questions, such as:
*What makes my child more intelligent?
*Why are some children more successful at school than others?
*How can I help my baby develop?
*How can I temper those temper tantrums?
*How can I help my child make the most of their immense potential, when there are so many possible activities, yet so little time?
“Never before have I seen such a comprehensive and in-depth review of the neuroscientific and psychological basis of the effects of music on young children. Parents and many others will be anxious to read it because of its very important message. Liisa Henriksson-Macaulay has blazed an important and pioneering trail for others to follow, and I wish this book every success.”
Professor of Education, Psychologist FBPsS David J. Hargreaves, University of Roehampton
“I am pleased to commend this is a very positive contribution to the public awareness of the power of music to transform children’s lives. Every child is musical. By encouraging their children to make the most of their innate musical potential, parents can support much wider cognitive, emotional and social development as their children grow. Liisa Henriksson-Macaulay’s narrative is engaging and full of rich personal anecdote, as well as a synthesis of key research findings and useful examples for parents of how music can be used successfully to nurture and strengthen children’s development.”
Professor Graham Welch, Institute of Education, University of London
“Henriksson-Macaulay’s book bursts with enthusiasm and a fantastic array of knowledge and suggested approaches for fostering the musical development of children. Her commitment to this cause never flounders. I applaud her.”
Lucy Green, Professor of Music Education, University of London
Why Motor Skills Matter – And How to Boost Them In Your Child
Friday, 18 January, 2013 12:11
Have you heard the news? This week, the Telegraph reported:
“Rising numbers of pupils can “hardly move” at the age of 11 because of a lack of specialist PE teachers in primary schools, it was claimed.
Baroness Campbell said there was a danger that the Olympic legacy may be wasted as schools fail to convert a wave of goodwill towards sport into actual participation.
She warned that primary teachers received little formal training in PE and often lacked the confidence to deliver high-quality lessons in the subject.”
This is precisely the same problem that has been identified when it comes to music education. The majority of the teachers themselves do not have a background in music, so how are they supposed to teach it to our children? They don’t. I know a child who at school has learned to be proficient at recognizing the sound of different instruments, but doesn’t know how to tell major from minor, let alone count beats or read music.
The problem with this is what Lamb and Gregory identified back in 1993: learning to recognize sounds of instruments, timbres, does not boost the brain. Only music training does. Lamb and Gregory’s finding was that the better your child is at recognizing pitches, the better their reading skills are. And by boosting these melodic skills by ear training, their reading skills improve.
But what’s more relevant for today’s topic, music training also boosts motor skills. This belongs in what Howard Gardner has called ‘bodily-kinesthetic intelligence’. Back in the 1960s, scientists found that when people train while music plays in the background, they are able to lift significantly more weights and run faster and longer than they did without music. (This explains why the Body Pump class blasts louder dance music than your average nightclub.)
A crucial discovery was made in 1967 by G. L. Beisman who organized an experiment on over 600 children. The children were divided into two groups that were taught motor skills such as kicking, jumping and throwing with an identical amount of repetitions and identical instruction. The only difference was that the other group was taught this with rhythmic music, and the other group didn’t have music on at all. The children who were taught through music ended up learning these crucial motor skills significantly better than the children who were taught without music.
A more recent study from 2004 by Evridiki Zakhopoulou and her research group found that standard PE classes failed to improve the motor skills of children (aged 4-5 in this study) at all, whereas the music and movement groups had improved their motor skills and balance in just two months!
Brain imaging studies now have shown that music training activates the motor regions of the brain. In fact, even listening to rhythmic music activates the motor regions, making babies who listen to music with a beat (such as drums or percussion) spontaneously try and match their movements to music! (Zentner & Eerola, 2010) This is crucial for not only their motor development but their intellectual development, as bad rhythmic motor skills predict future learning difficulties (see, for instance, Waber, Weiler, Bellinger, Marcus, Forbes, Wypij & Wolff, Diminished motor timing control in children referred for diagnosis of learning problems, 2000) whereas good rhythmic motor skills, such as clapping and moving to rhythm, predict higher academic achievement in the years to come (see, for instance, Brodsky & Sulkin, 2011).
Don’t let your child fall behind — let your child shine with moving to music!
10 Christmas songs that train your child’s brain
Saturday, 24 November, 2012 12:11
It’s beginning to look a lot like that time of the year again. On the surface, Christmas may hold different meanings to different people, but behind the differences a few undisputed core values emerge: family and the loved ones. Gifts, Christmas cards and joint celebrations all promote love and togetherness. Most of all, Christmas is a time for children: after all, Christmas started from celebrating the birth of a child.
Many of the most popular Christmas carols feature rhythm concepts that are otherwise not as commonly found in Western music. New research shows that there is not a better way to train a small child’s brain than to help them clap along to different rhythm concepts. Here’s just a few key findings of recent research:
- whether your child is at school yet or not, once they engage in handclapping training, their memory, handwriting and motor coordination improves(as above, click here for link)
- children who learn different rhythm concepts succeed 50% better in maths tests than children who are taught the traditional pen-and-paper way. Learning through music helped improve especially those pupils’ maths skills who were previously low achieving in mathematics(2012 study from San Francisco University, click here for link)
You can easily encourage your child to clap along to the 3/4 time signature or dance along to the shuffle beat of popular Christmas music. It’s fun, so your child won’t even realize they’re training for academic success! A win-win for the whole family.
Most songs and compositions in the Western tradition, whether classical, popular or jazz, center around the 4/4 beat (ie it’s based on the repeated counting of one-two-three-four). 4/4 beat is the standard beat that most everyone, with or without music training, will have gotten accustomed to just by living in a Western country, whether England, United Stated, Finland or Australia. Music scholars such as Edwin E. Gordon have criticized this one-sided musical diet that is fed to most children. Children simply do not hear enough of alternative time signatures.
But Christmas songs make an exception. A wide range of popular Christmas carols have the 3/4 time signature, colloquially known as the ‘waltz beat’, where you count one-two-three, one-two-three… Thus, Christmas with its omnipresent carols are arguably the easiest way to introduce your child to the 3/4 time signature and teach them to clap its beat, if you haven’t done this already.
The shuffle beat is also present in many Christmas songs — especially in the tradition of Christmas hit songs in popular music. The shuffle beat is where each individual beat (each one of the countings of ‘one’, two’ three’ in 3/4 time and ‘one’, two’, ‘three’ and ‘four’ in 4/4 time is a beat) divides into three instead of two.
Here’s 10 songs to teach your child these two different rhythm concepts. You can start with picking just one song from each list and clapping along with your child. It is that simple!
Five of the most popular Christmas songs in the 3/4 beat:
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
O Christmas Tree
O Holy Night
Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Five popular Christmas songs in 4/4 shuffle time (note that this is not the typical 4/4 time but 4/4 shuffle):
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
All I Want For Christmas Is You — recorded by Mariah Carey and others
Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney
To ensure your child’s learning success after Christmas, why not let Santa bring them their own Moosicology Package. Moosicology features many songs in both 3/4 time and shuffle time, as well as stories, instructions, colourful pictures and charming characters that help your child grasp all these different rhythm concepts so crucial for making the most of your child’s inherent potential!
Let your child shine bright like a Christmas candle! Merry Christmas from the Moosicology family.
What the X-factor doesn’t tell you: we’re all musically talented
Thursday, 12 July, 2012 12:10
There’s a widespread belief that only some selected people have got musical talent and others don’t. Some “questionable” performances on TV talent shows have famously made it even easier for some to say that many people simply haven’t got music talent.
However, scientific research has found that every one of us has the ability to be musical.
And the reason why some people perform better musically than others does not come from something quite as glamorous as “talent” but rather something more mundane – plain old practise.
Science shows that musical expertise is directly linked to the amount of hours that each musician or performer practices. And many studies have shown that adults who had labelled themselves as “tone-deaf” and “not able to sing” were successfully taught to sing in tune with just a little bit of encouraging teaching.
All children love music, and many parents want their children to take up music learning. However, because of the myth that you “have to have musical talent”, many families give up before their child has had the chance to develop their musicality to the degree where it becomes obvious that they have it. All of us are musical, and all it takes is practice to bring it to life.
It can be hard to motivate a small child for music learning. But the benefits of music are outstanding: children who engage in early learning of music gain increased intelligence, better reading skills and emotional well-being, to name just a few of the benefits.
Research shows that this is because early music learning engages practically every area of the child’s brain – more than any other activity. And the early years are crucial for forming the neural connections that give the brain its structure. Everyone can learn music, but to gain the benefits outside of the study of music, you need to start early. The cut-off point for the wide range of brain benefits is generally shown to be around the ages of 7 to 8.
And the earlier a child starts learning music, the bigger benefits that gain! Toddlers who study music are shown to develop crucial life skills such as the ability to self-regulate their emotions, wait and be more patient. They also have a bigger vocabulary and unbelievably, they are also happier: they are measured to smile more than toddlers who do not learn music! (see The Science)
And babies who are less than 6 months old are shown to develop better musical understanding when their parents play different types of music to them. This is one of the reasons why Moosicology works even for babies – it features an extensive amount of over sixty tracks that help babies develop a wide “musical vocabulary” – an understanding of different areas of notation, rhythm and melody.
Imagine if schools said that only a selected few people can learn to read, and wouldn’t even try and teach reading skills to most children!
In fact, this is how it used to be. Not that many generations ago it was considered “a waste” to give schooling to most people, because people thought that only a selected few people would benefit from skills such as reading, writing and counting.
These days, all children are expected to develop skills in literacy and numeracy. As a result, all children learn these skills – but they wouldn’t learn if they weren’t taught!
It’s the same with musicality. Just like we all are born with an ability to learn a language and a basic understanding of mathematics, we all are born with the ability to learn music.
So the singer who sings off-key is not “tone-deaf” or “musically untalented” – but rather, lacking the practice. Nerves come into play too, as anyone who performs in public knows well. Again, there’s only one cure for stage fright: going out there and doing it more. In other words: practice.
So let’s remember that our brains are wired for music learning and even though the most miraculous brain benefits of music learning only apply to small children, it is never too late to learn music! And if you have a baby or a small child, investing in their musical development is indeed a no-brainer to boost the growing brain.
The Good News of Why Schools Fail (And What To Do About It)
Thursday, 12 July, 2012 12:09
Recently, education experts have been vocal about stating that the school system is failing our children (and thus catching up with what I tried to explain to my teachers as a teenager…). From Sir Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk (with currently over 3,5 million views on youtube) to last year’s documentary by Lord Puttnam, “We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For”, experts are lining up to say that the current school system is not serving the children nor the society.
Their common criticism is that the schools are still stuck in an old world where it’s enough to specialize in a narrow area of expertise. For instance, Robinson says that the school system is only designed to develop university professors. Everyone else is trained to become workforce.
Yet our children are born with amazing potential. When you look at your child and see all the imagination, creativity and natural intelligence, doesn’t it wrench your heart to think that this human being would be trained to become a cog in the wheel for society?
But there’s an upside to the “failing school system”.
Because in today’s world, the school system is not only failing the children, but it’s failing the society too. Concentrating on developing just a few skills rather than supporting the child to fulfill their potential was never serving the child – but in the old days, it served the society.
These days, the demands of society have completely changed. The world is changing so fast that the narrow areas of expertise are dying. In the beginning of the new millennium, there was more information produced within just two years than in the previous 5000 years combined. New professions are replacing old ones – and within a few years, those new professions will themselves be replaced.
The good news is that the society cannot justify designing children to be cogs in the wheels anymore. Because by the time those kids are grown, the wheels have been changed and the cogs won’t fit.
The only way for a person to secure his place in today’s world is to invest in his full development. There’s no excuse anymore not to allow our children to develop their full potential.
Some parents have sensed this, panicked and signed their child up to a million different classes since the age of 0. By the power of numbers, they try and ensure that at least one of the skills that their child learns will still be relevant by the time they grow up, so the kids are shuttered to classes in Japanese, Chinese, French, Extra-Curricular Mathematics, Dance, Sports, Music, Art and Drama. This phenomenon has been labelled “hot-housing” or “pushy parenting”.
They are all wonderful hobbies by the way! And nothing beats early learning. It’s just that experts are worried that children miss out on developing their most important assets – namely, their character, emotional well-being, and ironically, learning skills, if they continuously miss out on the most important component of a healthy childhood (besides parental love): free imaginative play. Because free play allows children to learn on their own terms.
Child development experts from Rousseau, Dewey and Montessori onwards have always emphasized that children should be allowed to develop their full potential. But rather than meaning that everyone has to become experts at everything, this means that we all have our own unique capabilities (as well as flaws), and that our multiple talents cannot be graded as easily as the old-fashioned and partial school grade system implies. Howard Gardner’s famous idea of multiple intelligences emphasizes that what the schools are focusing on is indeed a narrow slice of human abilities. A bit of mathematics, a bit of reading and writing (for secretarial purposes rather than expressive).
Interestingly, Howard Gardner says that there are at least 9 types of intelligences and that out of these, the school system only focuses on a mere two: Logical-Mathematical and Linguistic.
Howard Gardner’s famous list of intelligences includes these types of intelligence: Logical-mathematical, Spatial, Linguistic, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Naturalistic, Existential/Spiritual.
What I find fascinating is that not only is “musical intelligence” considered as its own type of intelligence, but that according to a growing number of scientific research, music learning boosts almost all of these other types of intelligence!
Let’s have a look at the intelligences again:
*Logical-mathematical intelligence. Early music learning is shown to increase mathematical skills and IQ, the standard measure for logical intelligence and reasoning abilities.
*Spatial intelligence. An array of research by Frances Raucher and her research team shows evidence that early music learning in childhood boosts spatial-temporal intelligence (this is measured by spatial-temporal IQ).
*Linguistic intelligence. Nothing boosts linguistic abilities, language development and reading skills like early music learning. Children, even toddlers, who study music, develop a bigger vocabulary, better linguistic intelligence and better reading skills. Brain research has even shown that this is because music and languages reside in the same brain networks. Lack of sufficient awareness of pitch is even linked to reading difficulties such as dyslexia, and music learning counteracts this!
*Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence. Instrument playing is shown to boost motor skills. And early rhythmic learning and coordination, before a child is even old enough to learn an instrument, is shown to boost the child’s all-round development and even intelligence.
*Interpersonal intelligence. This is “social intelligence”. Children who study music are shown to be, in general, better adapted socially, have better social skills and even have more friends!
*Intrapersonal intelligence. This is “self-awareness”. Toddlers who study music are shown to have better “self-regulation skills” – they are more patient when waiting and have better control of their emotions because they are more able to calm themselves down in a stressful situation.
*Naturalistic intelligence. I must admit, I haven’t come across any research that says that music learning boosts natural intelligence. Outdoor play is the only way!
*Existential/Spiritual intelligence. Every musician knows – although they may vary the terms that they use – that making music, and even listening to it, could often and easily be labelled as a “spiritual” experience. For me, music has always been the innocent place where I can return to, where everything is well – that world of childhood happiness and imagination. Although scientists could say that it is because music has the same euphoric effect on the brain as some infamous drugs!(Which I have personally never experienced, but these scientists have done brain scans and shown that music activates the same “intensely rewarding” brain regions as cocaine.) Music learning also boosts scientific thinking, thought to play a part in existential intelligence.
So, in this day and age, schools should take heed and focus on nurturing each child’s unique gifts – and give a wide opportunity for them to develop.
And if you are a parent and want to boost your child’s overall development, remember that the scientists say that the school system boosts only 2 types of intelligences in your child, and music learning boosts an unbelievable 8 out of 9! As for Sir Ken Robinson’s views on schools that kill creativity – nothing fosters creativity better than the full development of self and investing in one’s multiple intelligences – for true “lateral thinking”!
The surprising way to boost your baby’s language development (you can do this at home)
Thursday, 12 July, 2012 12:08
It has become a cultural norm that parents must boost their baby’s language development. Evidence of this is that the “nighttime story” practice is common in most families and parents are very aware that they must talk to their baby ever since he/she is born (or sometimes while the baby’s still in the womb!).
However, the news from science has not travelled so fast into the reach of families. Whilst the nighttime story is a great practice, and talking to your baby is crucially important not only for the language development but the social and emotional connection, there is one piece of information that is often missing.
That is, music. While the weekly baby and toddler music groups are a popular activity, imagine if your baby could only hear people talk during a 40-minute weekly session, and for the rest of the week, not only would anyone speak to them, but they would not hear any spoken language.
It’s easy to see that this would mean serious delays for the baby’s language development.
Yet this is exactly what is happening to the musical development of many babies, toddlers and small children.
The reason for this is obviously the common assumption that for babies and children, language development is crucial, while musical development is optional. The school system encourages this kind of thinking, focussing on “core skills” – the three Rs.
Yet the best way to develop all of the three Rs is – surprisingly but scientifically – early music learning.
Babies and small children who are fortunate enough to benefit from early music learning, and the brain boost that it gives, are statistically shown in later life – when the school years start – to excel in reading, writing and mathematics compared to the children who miss out on early music learning. And the instant benefits for babies include bigger vocabulary and more advanced communication skills.
Science shows that the best time to start early music learning is as soon as possible. Different ages require different methods – a baby or toddler cannot yet take instrument lessons, nor can most preschoolers (due to the motivation, practice and discipline that instrument lessons demand – unless you are lucky to find a great teacher suited to teach small children), but there are basic musical skills that even the smallest of children can master.
For instance, did you know that – as simple as it sounds – clapping to different rhythms is shown to increase the language development and school success of small children more than anything else? It’s remarkably simple but it works. (See, for instance, the study by Brodsky and Sulkin, 2011)
And for babies, who cannot yet clap, the benefits of music learning are indeed nothing short of remarkable. They gain better early communication skills and are even easier to soothe when they are upset! (See, for instance, this article in ScienceDaily)
And the simplest way to support your baby’s development – language development as well as your baby’s overall brain development – is to support your baby’s musical development. We can start this, very simply, by singing to our babies and having a musical environment at home which exposes the child to different types of music. I initially started creating the children’s songs, that became the foundation for Moosicology, so that my Son could listen to a wide range of different music concepts and thus acquire a large “musical vocabulary”.
The baby’s first years are a time of intense brain development, when the brain forms new connections between different neurons depending on what kind of stimuli it encounters in its environment. The world’s leading music educators, such as Edwin E. Gordon who invented the widely-used music aptitude test, comment that babies’ brains are missing out on their optimal development if they miss out on music – to the point where the lack of sufficient music stimuli can actually be called “music abuse”.
In his article that is provocatively called “Early Childhood Music Abuse: Misdeeds and Neglect”, Prof. Gordon writes: “With regard to language, most youngsters receive at least enough informal guidance in linguistic skills to benefit from formal instruction. Unfortunately, that is not the case with music. The majority of children who are ready to receive formal instruction in school music are bereft of appropriate musical readiness to learn.”
Several studies, such as CA Mallett’s “An examination of parent/caregiver attitudes toward music instruction, the nature of the home musical environment, and their relationship to the developmental music aptitude of preschool children” (2000) have shown that the musical environment that a small child has at home is the best predictor of how advanced their musical development is.
Babies and children do not learn music if they cannot access the learning of it. Musical talent is not something that is inborn in some of us and not in others. It’s something that is wired in the brains of every newborn, just like the potential for learning a language.
Just like babies learn language skills from good access to language, babies learn music skills from good access to music. And as music learning is shown to make a real difference like no other activity in the language development of babies, it is time that we become more aware that music is not something “optional” and “on the sidelines” but just as crucial for a small child’s full development as language learning.
So enrich your baby’s home music environment, sing to your baby and play them different types of music! (The nighttime song routine is also a great way to ensure that your child gets to hear at least some singing every day. Why not follow the nighttime story by a soothing song!)