Improve Your Childs Analytical Abilities

How playing piano can result in general all round academic improvements.
The Musical Brain

Remember all those practice sessions at the piano when you were smaller? You probably thought they were retribution for all your mischievous pranks. Maybe you were right. At the very least, Ill bet your parents thought piano playing might teach you some discipline or give you some much needed social graces.

Well, piano playing might teach children all of those things and more. According to Debra Viadero, in Education Week, researchers from the University of California at Irvine and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh found that piano playing by preschoolers enhances children's abilities to form mental images from physical objects or stated in academic speak "spatial-temporal" skills.

These skills are a key component of children's ability to learn math and science. Interestingly, the earlier children start on piano lessons, the longer lasting the results. Why? Since children's brains are a mass of loosely connected neurons, experience strengthens the connections between specific cells. With use, these connections become stronger. With disuse, the cells eventually wither.

If children are exposed early and often to certain experiences such as piano playing and music, the neurons for those specific skills and higher order thinking skills are strengthened. How were the researchers able to demonstrate this?

Viadero reports that the researchers studied 78 preschoolers from varying backgrounds. They divided the children into four groups: one group took piano lessons for fifteen minutes twice a week and also received singing lessons; one group took 30 minute singing lessons 5 days a week; one group trained on computers; one group received no special training at all.

The results?

The researchers tested the children for spatial reasoning skills before they began the study and again at six months after the study had began. Those children who received the piano instruction improved their scores by 34%. There were only slightly increased scores by the other three groups. The improved scores also seemed to be long lasting if the child was young. Similar studies with older students also found increases in these skills but the effects did not last.

What researchers also do not know is if these same effects can be obtained by children playing other musical instruments such as the clarinet or violin. Given these preliminary findings that suggest piano playing has positive effects on children's abilities to learn, what can parents do to encourage this in their own children?

One of the keys to making this a successful experience for your child is to never make learning and practicing an arduous experience. Nearly 80 children forced to take music lessons abandon the instrument and don't pursue it any further according to Casio, a manufacturer of electronic instruments. If parents are able to keep in mind that the reason they are doing this is not to produce another musical genius but to help children learn and to develop a life long enjoyment of music, everyone will be happier.

Introduce your child to the piano around age four. Usually, children at this age are curious about the piano. They want to learn how to play it. Activities that involve playing the piano and listening to piano music, help to reinforce your child's learning and enjoyment of it.

Don't worry that child will not want to practice. Music teachers have reported that since young children learned to walk and talk through much practice and repetition, they fall into practicing the piano with greater ease than children who are older and further away from those essential lessons in acquiring skills.

Schedule lessons at the time of day in which your child feels alert and refreshed. No one enjoys tackling a new project when one is feeling tired and worn out. Try to arrange for lessons first thing in the morning or after a rest period. Follow your child's lead with piano playing. Allow him or her to experiment with sounds the piano makes during each practice session. As hard as that can be sometimes, parents must understand that children use all of their senses to learn.

Audio-visual cues and kinesthetic input will aid your child in figuring out how to read music. After a period of experimentation, gently redirect your child's attention back to pieces which need to be practiced. Compliment your child on their experiment and suggest that now they try a song someone else has written. Help your child to understand the story or composer behind the music.

Children love to be told stories and would enjoy hearing about Mozart's early start or the story behind his early works. Surround your child with musical experiences . Activities such as listening to music on CDs or the radio, singing songs accompanied with finger movements, dancing or moving to music, watching children's musicals as they are performed on stage will expand your child's interest in music and hopefully the need to practice.

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