Everyone has a sense that music helps kids in their development, but what are the specifics? Why is music important for children?
Here are three reasons why music matters for kids.
1. Music transcends cultures.
“Music is the language of the spirit,” wrote Kahlil Gibran. “It opens the secret of life bringing peace, abolishing strife.”
No matter your ethnicity, race, or religion, powerful music has a transformative effect on listeners. People move their heads or tap their feet to a beat, even when the lyrics to a song are in a language they can’t understand.
It’s something the social-musical initiative Koolulam understands well. They hold concerts in places that experience division, teaching different parts and harmonies to people — sometimes even in different languages. But the effect of the united choir is powerful. See their performance in Jerusalem, for instance, which combines three languages into a unified experience.
If kids can learn to truly appreciate music from a variety of places, they can go a long way to preventing harmful prejudices from creeping into their lives.
2. Music helps kids process emotions.
The television host Mr. Rogers would sometimes tell stories about getting bullied as a kid — how other kids made fun of his weight, his asthma, and other things.
He says that playing music was something he could do to work through his feelings of pain. “I was always able to cry or laugh or say I was angry through the tips of my fingers on the piano,” he once said. “I would go to the piano even when I was five years old and start to play how I felt.”
Elsewhere he said, “We may not be able to play an instrument, but we can sing along or clap or tap our feet.” In this way, Mr. Rogers shows that we can all use music to help us process our emotions. It’s far healthier than other ways of dealing with negative emotions!
3. Music is healing.
In 1929, the business tycoon J.C. Penney experienced anxiety so severe he was hospitalized. One night, laying in the hospital, he believed he was going to die and wrote farewell letters to his wife and son.
Luckily, he survived the night. When he woke up the next morning he heard singing coming from the nearby hospital chapel. He walked in and listened, surrounding himself with the sounds.
“Suddenly something happened,” he later wrote of the experience. “I can’t explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm brilliant sunlight. I felt as if I had been transported from hell to paradise. … From that day to this, my life has been free from worry. I am 71 years old, and the most dramatic and glorious 20 minutes of my life were those I spent in that chapel that morning.”
It’s an experience that is available to people of all ages — music as a way toward inner healing. As Anne W. Lipe, professor of music therapy at Shenandoah University, says, “Music facilitates entry into altered states of consciousness and transpersonal experiences which may lead to insight or open avenues of healing.”
Perhaps more than anything, this is why music matters for kids. Sooner or later they will experience the pains that life inevitably brings. And music — especially sacred or spiritual music — is one way to find solace from that pain.
For guidance on how to help kids experience this transformative power, see our lesson on music (for members) in our lesson library. For free access to a range of content to help with spiritual parenting, see our resource center.