It’s the doing that counts. It’s more important, in the end, than dreaming, scheming, planning, thinking, watching, listening. Not that we don’t need to do all of the above – but we do need to make sure that we don’t let them take the place of actually doing things.
Doing involves using the body. It enhances the senses, increases skills, feels good (unless overdone) and leaves a person feeling they’ve achieved something. Doing makes us grow stronger – both in body and mind. Besides, the more we do something we enjoy the better we become at it – and the more we enjoy doing it. It’s a good cycle to get into.
It’s true for adults; it’s even more true for children. Now there is more and more evidence that when it comes to growing the young brain, learning to do the arts really makes a difference that counts.
A review of studies shows that as children learn to make music, the number of connections in their brains increase (growing the brain) and they learn to listen better and better. The result: they learn more than music – they learn to process words and meanings better, are more aware of tone and nuance, hear and see patterns and rhythms more easily, have a better vocabulary. So they learn and communicate better, and find learning new languages easier.
Which means that enjoying music is wonderful, but doing music is better. At least when it comes to how children’s brains grow. Art, dancing and acting are other activities that we know build important life and learning skills, the kind that give a child a good foundation to build on. Not just motor skills, but skills like observing, listening, empathizing and communicating well. But to really benefit a child has to spend time learning to do them.
Learning from an experienced teacher helps; but there’s a lot children can learn from other adults around them and from each other, given the opportunity. Singing together, playing clapping games, playing games where people have to listen to each other or to music, dancing together, pretending, drawing and painting and building and making castles in the sand or shapes from clay – all encourage the same kind of development. Simple exploration is a good way of learning – trying something to see how it works out (as long as it’s not dangerous). And everyone benefits when children and adults learn to do new things together. All it takes is a bit of time and imagination.
So why not get doing?
The quote from the article in Science Daily that got me thinking about this (again):
“The effect of music training suggests that, akin to physical exercise and its impact on body fitness, music is a resource that tones the brain for auditory fitness and thus requires society to re-examine the role of music in shaping individual development, ” the researchers conclude.
An active engagement with musical sounds not only enhances neuroplasticity, but also enables the nervous system to provide the stable scaffolding of meaningful patterns so important to learning, researchers say.
Citation: Northwestern University. “How Music Training Primes Nervous System and Boosts Learning.” ScienceDaily 20 July 2010. 27 July 2010 <http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/07/100720152252.htm>.