1) Music is our first language. It calms stressed and anxious systems and regulates the lower brain. When the body is rhythmically organised, children are able to relax, attend, listen, enjoy and learn.

2) Music is an intuitive language of the emotions. We can use music effectively to match children’s emotional levels to calm or arouse. “Music for the developing brain is a form of play” (Levitin p. 256).

3) Music is an experience enjoyed by the whole brain. It activates memory, thus helping children to see, hear, feel, move and remember, through sensory and emotional music experiences. Musical play causes the brain to activate the release of the chemicals dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, and endorphins, which are responsible for our sense of happiness.

4) Neuroscience shows that for the brain, information paced by rhythmic pulse (steady beat) and pattern is non-threatening. We can teach many aspects of sequential learning in enjoyable, repetitive, rhythmic, sensory ways that can underpin and support all learning, such as literacy and numeracy.

5) Rhythmic patterning is one of the most important elements in the pacing of spoken language. Rhythmic speech paces the brain’s intake of cognitive information.

6) Music activities that include strong rhythmic and movement components can impact upon adaptive motor planning, sensory organisation, cognitive processes and general physiological pacing.

7) Learning vocabulary in sung format can contribute to more efficient memory of lyrics, poems, and foreign languages, because the brain loves patterns.

8) Music helps adaptive responses to auditory and visual stimuli, and pacing of body movement. It promotes ability to concentrate and stay on task, to accept changing order and routine, and supports both verbal and non verbal communication.

9) Because music is predictable and sequential, it supports sequential learning. When lyrics are used, multiple sequencing takes place, as well as  cognition of meaning. Ongoing use of sequential sensory musical stimulus supports the development of neural networks. Music and movement activities abound for developing timing, sequencing skills and spatial reasoning.

10) Musical play helps to set limits and boundaries. It is a natural behaviour modification tool that requests a level of compliance from the listener and participant. It is a social unifier, requiring no specific training in order for it to be experienced and enjoyed in a group. It helps everyone to watch, wait and listen, and move and play in time, thus developing a sense of music community.

“Rhythm stirs our bodies. Tonality and melody stir our brains. The coming together of rhythm and melody bridges our cerebellum (the motor control, primitive little brains and our cerebral cortex (the most evolved, most human part of our brain)…The multiple reinforcing cues of a good song – rhythm, melody, contour, form, cause music to stick in our heads…Music’s function for the developing child is to help prepare the mind for a number of complex cognitive and social activities, exercising the brain so that it will be ready for the demands placed on it by language and social interaction” (Levitin, p. 257- 261).

For more information about the benefits of music education, watch Anita Collins’ Ted Talk “What if every child had access to music education from birth?” by following this link: https://youtu.be/ueqgenARzlE


Baller, M. (2001) ‘Language, Brain and Cognitive Development Meeting: What Makes the Mind Dance and Count.’ Science 292, 5522, 1st June 2001, 1636-1637.

Begley, S. (2000) ‘ Music on the Mind.’ Newsweek, 24th July 2000, 50-52.

Berger, D.S. (1997) ‘Are you listening?’ In J. Schneck, D.J and J.K Schneck (eds) Music in Human Adaptation, 209-214. Blackburn. V.A: Virginia Tech Press.

Levitin, D.J. (2006) This is Your Brain on Music’. Dutton Press: USA.

Pinker, S. (1994) ‘The language instinct: How the Mind Creates Language’. New York: Harper Perennial.

© Julie Wylie, 19 October 2018


Julie, thank you so much for the wonderful new ideas that I can implement into my teaching practice. The three workshops that I attended were informative and so much fun! The workshops are a must for all ECE teachers!

Our Fendalton Playcentre tamariki just love music!

Kate Coffey
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