It's official– music is important in children's lives. Lisa Salmon looks at the benefits of making and listening to music for kids, and how parents can get involved ...
From a very early age, children love both listening to and making music– although the sounds they create are often far from tuneful.
Whatever their "music" sounds like, not only does it make children happy, it also helps them develop and learn, according to a recent report.
With Government funding for music in schools being slashed from £82.5m a year to £60m, it's more important than ever for parents to encourage musical creativity at home, says Dr Barbie Clarke, a child social psychologist who has written the report into the educational, social and therapeutic benefits of music for children.
Dr Clarke, who wrote the report as part of the new Persil Get Messy With Music campaign, said: "Encouraging children to sing, to pick up anything that's lying around to help to make sound and rhythm, and to join in family events in a musical way will help your child to connect socially, improve their learning and can also be therapeutic.
"Above all, music should be fun and enjoyable – not something that's forced or too formal."
The report found that children increase their creative development just as much by messing around and having fun with music as they do from hours of serious practice.
Through taking part in music, children also learn important non-verbal communication skills such as taking turns, making eye contact, anticipating the actions of others, listening and concentrating and relating to others.
Music is also thought to have educational benefits, as research suggests listening to music affects the function of the brain and learning to play a musical instrument can improve certain skills.
Dr Clarke said: "The ability to remember through playing music, hearing rhythms and making sounds can help to improve the way a child learns.
"Research has shown that if children have music in their lives – either by learning to play a musical instrument, learning to sing in a choir, or learning to recognise music – it can help them to improve academically."
Music also has therapeutic benefits, and can help children who have experienced emotional or physical trauma to express how they feel without words.
"Music plays an important role in our everyday lives. It can help those who find it difficult to make friends, or communicate, to find expression and connect with others," Dr Clarke said.
The Persil Get Messy with Music campaign is fronted by singer and mum-of-three Sophie Ellis-Bextor, whose own mum Janet Ellis is a former Blue Peter presenter.
Ms Ellis-Bextor has put together some tips for parents to get involved in making music and sounds with their children. She suggests making musical instruments from household items, creating a stage in the garden or making up rhythms and lyrics to your own songs.
The whole family dressing up and performing on the makeshift stage to recreate favorite bands is another idea which will help develop a child's imagination and encourage social interaction.
Ms Ellis-Bextor said: "Creativity and a love of music were passed on to me by my parents and I'm doing the same with my own kids.
"To me, music is all about having fun and getting stuck in, which is why I'm encouraging families across the country to get involved with music at home."
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