Music has so many benefits for kids and getting them involved can be simple. Here's what one mom and music teachers recommends.
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Linzie Mullins
Credit: Courtesy of Linzie Mullins

Ensuring our children are in an environment that enhances their gifts and talents is vital in developing confidence and growing their brains in new ways. Research shows that music at an early age, especially, has positive effects on brain development and academic success.

I am a foster and adoptive mom and have seen with my own eyes how much music heals children. My husband and I adopted our oldest son when he was 13. He had been in the foster care system for almost seven years, separated from his biological siblings. During that time, he took up drumming. And now, in times of great distress, he leans on his electric drum set to take him out of reality and alter his mood.

My 10-year-old adopted son is in the dance ensemble at school, as well as the ukulele and choir group. He has performed in public many times in his dance group, and it has shown us a completely different side to him. His confidence is increasing, and his anxiety is decreasing. Plus, he is happier when he is performing.

As a music teacher, I've also seen how much the arts have changed the lives of many of my students. Students at my school come from many different backgrounds, yet they come together in a beautiful community in the music room. I have students who are failing other subjects or misbehaving in other classrooms but find themselves thriving through music. How we teach music lends itself to students feeling comfortable expressing themselves in ways they cannot in other contexts. I have had students who are nonverbal sing their name to a puppet, or students who are shy develop confidence through movement.

Giving your children the opportunity to express themselves through art is a powerful tool and it can benefit their lives in so many ways. Here are simple ways you can help nurture your child's love for music.

Expose Them to Music

Both of my children are actively involved in their school music programs in addition to after-school activities. Find out what your child's school offers and how they can participate. Or encourage your child to try another program, such as Kindermusik, School of Rock, or others. Many religious and community organizations also have children's choirs or music programs that you might be interested in.

You can also make music in your home. That comes naturally for my family since my husband and I are both elementary music educators—he's an instrumentalist, and I'm a vocalist. Often, you will find us singing and dancing around our house. But you don't have to be a professional artist to embrace music at home. Spend time listening to different types of music together and find ways to engage through movement or singing. You can also spend time making instruments or create sounds using the pots and pans in your cabinets. Or even just make your own playlist. When we feel tension in my home, we play music on the speaker, turn off all the screens and sit, listening or singing along with one another. Just that simple act lets us bring happy community back into our home.

Encourage Their Talent

Find out what your child loves and look for a way to foster that gift or talent. There are so many resources for private lessons, choirs, bands, orchestras, dance groups, and more that can enhance their skills. TakeLessons and Suzuki are great ways to find a private or group instructor for your child in your area. If your child does have music in their school, reach out to their teacher as a resource and ask what programs they would recommend for your kid. I often tell my singing students to engage in a performing group at an early age because that is the best way for them to learn how to match pitch and build confidence.

Cheer Them On

Make sure to get involved to show support for your little one. You can reach out to their music teacher and ask what they might need for performances coming up or how you can support them. Show up to the programs and performances and bring family and friend supporters. Even better, invite local elected officials to these programs so they can not only be an audience member, but also speak to the community about the importance of music in our schools. These stakeholders need opportunities to see our children in action. Also, consider getting involved in the music booster programs or parent-teacher organizations at your local school.

Be a Music Advocate

Music in our schools is such an important tool in enhancing the creativity of our children and keeping them engaged. Schools with music programs have about a 90.2 percent graduation rate, compared to a 72.9 percent rate in schools without music education, according to Children's Music Workshop. Yet, music is often one of the first classes on the chopping block during budget cut times.

How can you help? Advocate for music in your local schools. The National Association for Music Education (NAfME website) offers some simple ways to do that, including grassroots efforts.

According to the Save the Music Foundation, you can also be an advocate by simply sharing your child's music stories and the impact it has on them on social media. You can reach out to your local music teacher and ask to help with a fundraiser. Many teachers need equipment that is not budgeted for inside the school, such as sheet music, instruments, and instrument repair parts. Be sure to also let the school administration know how much you appreciate them being a supporter of the arts in their school.

It can also help to donate to foundations that support music education financially (if you're able to). One foundation that has helped my personal classroom and professional development is the CMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association. The foundation has programs, such as the Music Teachers of Excellence award and a Mentor M.E. program, that are helping schools across the country fight to keep music programs in their schools, as well as recognize teachers who are in the top of their field. Supporting foundations like these can really keep music education in your child's school, which can improve students' academics and confidence.