At a time when school administrators continue to cut budgets for the arts, researchers are finding more and more reasons why chorus, band, and art should be a part of every child’s life. The arts are positively linked to social-emotional skills, including a child’s ability to plan and control his or her behavior. Studies show that these skills are every bit as important as traditional academic courses in getting ahead in school and in life.
In Singing One’s Way to Self-Regulation: The Role of Early Music and Movement Curricula and Private Speech, researchers found that children enrolled in a music program, Kindermusik, showed higher levels of self-control than those who were not enrolled. The study was conducted by Dr. Adam Winsler and graduate student Lesley Ducenne in the Department of Psychology at George Mason University.
The 15-month study included 89 children between the ages of three and four. Half of the children were enrolled in the music program, while other children with similar family backgrounds were not. They were observed doing a variety of tasks that required self-control, like refraining from touching attractive toys, or quietly whispering after getting instructions to initiate or stop certain behaviors.
The children enrolled in the music program showed higher levels of self-control than those who were not enrolled. According to researchers, this suggests that children exposed to the music program may reap the benefit of increased self-control, and as a result, may do better in school.
Scientists also observed that the children in the music class used an interesting strategy to regulate their impulses. They would sing or hum to themselves while they waited their turn to examine a gift or toy.