What does the research say about Kindermusik and Preschool Language Development?
Last year, as a new mommy, I was looking for fun classes for my music loving daughter. We decided to register for Kindermusik. As I was participating in the first class, I was amazed to see how well the class incorporated early language learning strategies that were individualized for each child's developmental stage. After the class, I quickly did a little more research on the Kindermusik program and realized that there has been a significant body of research looking at preschool music programs, such as Kindermusik.
Once I started looking into the evidence, I quickly fell down the research rabbit hole... and to save you an inordinate number hours of researching, here is a quick summary:
1. A study conducted in 2016 by Zhao and Kuhl looked at the way that 9 month old babies' brains process music and speech after music training. They found infants that had participated in music training were more likely to notice and respond to changes in music and speech (e.g., they would notice if the beat or the syllable structure had been changed). This skill is highly important for developing an early understanding of speech sounds and understanding that combining sounds in different ways can make different words (e.g., rhyming words). Children who are able to distinguish different sounds are more likely to develop stronger literacy skills over time (Ehri et al. 2001).
2. A study conducted in 2013 by Mehr et al. did not find cognitive benefits of a preschool music program when compared to an art class or a control group. This study measured the impact of the program directly following completion of the music training. It is possible that music training could have long term effects that were not immediately noticeable. As well, this study did not consider other skills that are targeted during a music training program (e.g., sound discrimination, social skills, etc.).
3. A study conducted in 2011 by Moreno et al. found that music training enhanced verbal intelligence and executive functioning. The study compared a group of children receiving music training to a group receiving art training. Results revealed that after 20 days training, only the children who received music training showed improvements in verbal intelligence. 90% of children who received the music training showed improvements in their verbal intelligence.
4. Several studies have shown that peer interactions positively impact preschoolers' expressive and receptive language, particularly for children with language delays (Ervin-Tripp, 1991; Hoff, 2006; Mashburn et al. 2009). Peer interactions provide unique opportunities for language use. Peer groups also provide opportunities to use language to express/resolve conflicts, negotiate, and assign roles.
Take Home Message
In summary, as long as you and your child are enjoying the class, Kindermusik provides excellent opportunities for positive parent-child and peer interactions. Research reveals mixed results on the effects of music training on intelligence/cognition, a positive impact on sound discrimination, and support for peer interactions. The potential benefits of participating in a Kindermusik class include introducing your child to music, practicing listening skills, hearing new vocabulary words, practicing turn taking, and learning about sound patterns. Overall, an hour spent at a music class is an hour full of language learning potential.
If you would like to learn more about the potential benefits of Kindermusik make sure to check out my next blog where I chat with Natisha McLeod, owner of Beautiful Noise Music School in Timmins, about why she loves teaching Kindermusik and how she incorporates early language learning strategies.
Disclaimer: Kindermusik is not specifically designed for children with language delays, and although it may promote language learning opportunities, it does not replace the need for assessment and intervention by a Speech-Language Pathologist.
Ehri, L., Nunes, S., Willows, D., Schuster, B., Yaghoub-Zadeh, Z., Shanahan, T. (2001). Phonemic awareness instruction helps children learn to read: Evidence from the National Reading Panel's meta-analysis. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 250–287
Ervin-Tripp, S. (1991). Play in language development. In B. Scales, M. Almy, A. Nicolopoulou, & S. Ervin-Tripp (Eds.), Play and the social context of development in early care and education (pp. 84–97). New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
Hoff, E. (2006). How social context supports and shapes language development.Developmental Review 26:55–88
Mashburn, A., Justice, L., Downer, J., Pianta, R. (2009). Peer effects on children’s language achievement during pre-kindergarten. Child Development 80(3):686-702.
Mehr, S., Schachnerl, A., Katz, R., Spelkel, E. (2013). Two randomized trials provide no consistent evidence for nonmusical cognitive benefits of brief preschool music enrichment. PLOS ONE 8(12)
Moreno, S., Bialystok, E., Barac, R., GlennSchellenberg, E., Cepeda, N., Chau, T., (2011). Short-term music training enhances verbal intelligence and executive function. Psychological Science 22(11) p. 1425-1433.
Zhao, T., Kuhl, P. (2016). Musical intervention enhances infants’ neural processing of temporal structure in music and speech. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 113(19) 5212-5217.