Benefits of Music on the Playground

Musical Instruments can a be a wonderful addition at any inclusive playground.  For the next 4 weeks or so, accessibleplayground.net will be highlighting the different types of outdoor instruments available for playgrounds.  To start our musical instrument series, below is article about the benefits of music for children of all abilities.  The article was written by Michelle Lazar, MT-BC, Director of Coast Music Therapy.  Michelle is an Autism Specialist with a Master’s Degree in Special Education & Autism from San Diego State University, including a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis. She also holds a baccalaureate degree in Music Therapy from Western Michigan University, with additional training in Neurologic Music Therapy.

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Music can be characterized by how it heals. The way music fires the neurons in the brain to the tempo it is played, helps bring into play the characteristics that bring the most healing benefit to an individual. Although the power, range and effectiveness of music as a healing tool has many variables, there are certain traits that are Universal.

Music therapy improves the quality of life for persons who are well and meets the needs of children and adults with disabilities or illnesses.

Music Therapy utilizes music and music related activities to modify ineffective learning patterns. Music Therapy works as a creative, flexible and sometimes spontaneous means of utilizing the appeal of music to help people of all ages and abilities. Music Therapy is an established health care profession. Music Therapy can positively affect children and adults alike. Music Therapy can make the difference between isolation and interaction.

  • Music captivates and maintains attention, stimulating and utilizing many parts of the brain.
  • Music is adapted to, and can be reflective of, a person’s ability.
  • Music structures time in a way that we can understand.
  • Music provides a meaningful, enjoyable context for repetition.
  • Music sets up a social context by setting up a safe, structured setting for verbal and nonverbal communication.
  • Music is an effective memory aid.
  • Music supports and encourages movement.
  • Music taps into memories and emotions.
  • Music and its related silence, provide nonverbal, immediate feedback.
  • Music is success oriented. People of all ability levels can participate.
  • Promote wellness
  • Manage stress
  • Alleviate pain
  • Express feelings
  • Enhance memory
  • Improve communication
  • Promote physical rehabilitation.

Cognitive/Academic

Think back to one of the first ways you used music to memorize information…. most likely the ABC Song. Using a simple tune, you were able to remember 26 different letters in order! This demonstrates how songs work as a mnemonic device to aid in memory and learning by organizing information into smaller chunks, making it easier to encode and retain. Other examples of musical mnemonics include learning the days of the week, a telephone number, or the states and capitals through song melodies or chants.

Another benefit of music in teaching new concepts is linked to motivation. A child who is interested and attentive when learning a new skill is much more likely to retain the information over time. In this way, music sparks children’s interest in learning, and creates an optimal environment for long-term skill retention.

Practical Tips:

Simple rhymes and chants are a practical way for students to memorize spelling rules (I before E except after C), calendar (30 days hath September, April, June, and November…) or history facts (Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492).

There are many song-story books available such as It’s Raining it’s Pouring and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly which can also be read and sung to increase interest in literacy activities.

Use words to familiar songs such as Take Me Out to the Ballgame or On Top of Spaghetti as a springboard to discuss new vocabulary and increase comprehension by asking children questions about the song lyrics.

Chant addition or multiplication facts to a rhythm.

Use a tune to remember various counting patterns. Example: Count by 3’s to the tune of Jingle Bells, 4’s to the tune of Old McDonald, 6’s to the tune of I’m a Little Teapot, etc.

There are a multitude of academic music recordings available by artists such as Hap Palmer (www.happalmer.com), Twinsisters (www.twinsisters.com), and Miss Jenny (www.edutunes.com).

Communication/Social Interaction

Because singing and speech share many similarities, yet are accessed differently by the brain, music strategies can be used as a means to improve functional communication. Songs of varying lengths can increase the duration of a child’s speech, while rhythm can be used as a timing cue to aid in speech pacing and intelligibility. Singing and wind instruments including whistles, recorders, and horns are also a fun way to increase breath support and oral motor strength. In the social environment, music activities are ideal for children who need more exposure or practice with peers in a motivating setting. Interactive strategies including music instruments and song games can promote social skills such as turn-taking, following directions in a group, eye contact, and cooperative play.

Practical Tips:

Sing a familiar song, but leave out a word at the end of a phrase or verse for the child to fill in. If the child is able to use full sentences, you can take turns singing verse by verse of a song.

For children who have more limited language skills, try using pictures to accompany songs. For example, while singing Old McDonald, the child can pick from a variety of animal photos to choose which animal should be used in the next song verse.

Tapping or beating a drum to a steady slow rhythm is a great way to elicit appropriate pacing and articulation of speech. Encourage the child to match his or her speech to the rate of your beat.

Many children’s song-games involve partner interaction or group collaboration. Simple songs such as London Bridge, Farmer and the Dell, and Ring Around the Rosy encourage teamwork and physical contact with peers.

Motor Abilities

Research is highly conclusive in supporting rhythm as an external timekeeper for movement. Basic skill areas such as bilateral integration, crossing midline, visual-motor integration, or imitating movement can be targeted with rhythmic music or musical instruments. Recorded music is also an effective method to promote relaxation or provide auditory feedback to improve head posturing and decrease muscle tension.

Practical Tips:

Action songs such as Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, The Hokey Pokey, The Hand Jive, and Looby Loo provide a great practice opportunity for a variety of motor skills.

Background music can be selected to encourage relaxation or rhythmic movement, depending on the tempo and mood of the song. For example, classical and new age are good choices for calming, while march tunes, and upbeat children’s songs are suited for gross motor skills such as walking, reaching, or simple aerobic exercises.

Rhythm instruments are ideal when working on fine motor skills due to the variety of grips and hand positions required to produce a sound. A sample of instruments that motivate kids include plastic castanets, egg shakers, rainsticks, triangles, rhythm sticks, and drums with mallets.

 

This article was reprinted with permission from the author.

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