Singing is a natural part of childhood. Most babies are surrounded by it, with parents and grandparents singing to them and music playing in our cars and homes. As children get older, they begin to play song games—they learn the alphabet and how to find their heads, shoulders, knees and toes. They begin to sing along at birthdays and holidays. They begin to make up songs, to dance and play with music. In school, they learn new songs and how to sing in groups. And as they grow into big kids, they ask you turn up the volume in the car for a Taylor Swift sing-along (if you’re lucky!).
At Villa di Maria, singing is woven into our curriculum at every level—it is a common (and lovely) experience to hear songs coming from our classrooms. And while nothing beats the joyous sounds of children’s voices, the real value in singing is not something we can hear at all; the real value is what’s happening inside the brain.
When we sing, our brains are exercising the auditory and visual pathways, processing language, controlling our vocal cords for pitch, regulating our breathing, accessing memory, recognizing and using patterns, tapping into motor control structures for rhythm, expressing personality and creativity and releasing endorphins. All of these things are happening at the same time when we sing—it is a top-to-bottom workout for the brain.
Children especially benefit from this multitasking because their brains are growing and learning. In just a few songs, children learn new vocabulary and rhyming. They practice listening and following directions. They learn to enunciate and control the volume of their voices. They concentrate and memorize. They work together to sing in unison or in rounds. They exercise their imaginations and express themselves. Singing also offers the opportunity to practice posture and body-control.
And there’s something else: when children sing to perform, they build confidence. They learn that their voices can be powerful and beautiful. They learn to take take pride in themselves and their creativity. This benefits not only the children themselves, but also those of us who are lucky enough to be in their audience and in their lives.
Here at VdM, we have two formal performances, our Winter and Spring Concerts. Tomorrow, we’ll peek in on our Children’s House singers as they prepare for the upcoming Winter Concert. Stay tuned!
Sources and suggested reading:
Music, Language, and the Brain by Aniruddh D. Patel
The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body by Steven Mithen
“Children’s brains develop faster with music training” by Emily Gersema
“How does the brain process rhythm?” by Elizabeth Kirkham
“The neural control of singing” by Jean Mary Zarate