The Montessori approach encourages the natural development of children with an education that supports the unique needs of each individual child at each developmental stage. The implementation of Montessori education revolves around five basic principles: respect for the child, the absorbent mind, sensitive periods, the prepared environment, and autoeducation.
Music is an integral part of the Montessori classroom. It enables children to communicate and express themselves non-verbally; helps them enjoy music and feel happy; enhances their math skills, literacy, and overall brain development; and can even improve their academic performance.
1. Enhances children’s brain development
Montessori education emphasizes the importance of recognizing children’s sensitive periods and customizing instruction to coincide with these. It’s been found that for the first three years of a child’s life, music can be used to stimulate nerve connections between brain cells that play an important role in cognitive development.
2. Gives children non-verbal affective communication skills
Children are full of emotions yet unlike (most) adults, they may lack the skills to accurately and adequately express these emotions. Music gives them a tool to do this and can help children express emotions more productively than simply crying, yelling, and so forth.
3. Boosts students’ spatial skills
There have been numerous studies linking music education and enhanced special reasoning skills and math scores. Music involves ratios, proportions, and patterns; so does, of course, math. It’s been found that playing music, as opposed to simply listening to it, has long-lasting positive effects. One study found that children who had six months of piano lessons improved their ability to do puzzles and other spatial tasks by almost 30%.
4. Helps children enjoy music and feel good
Music brings joy to adults and children alike. In fact, this feeling of joy may be related to dopamine: listening to music you love releases dopamine in your brain, and dopamine makes you feel good. It’s been found that babies as young as five months old react to happy music, and happy music causes people to breathe faster, which is a physical sign of happiness. Exposure to, learning about, and playing music gives children an early appreciation of music, and one that may very well stay with them their whole lives.
5. Improves children’s literacy
Taking music lessons can increase children’s listening skills, and because humans process sound the same way we process speech, music education can in turn improve the way children process language. Enhanced ability to process language can lead to improved literacy.
6. Improves academic achievement
Multiple studies have shown that music education is linked to academic achievement. For example, Dr. Nina Kraus from Northwestern University has found that music lessons caused gains in speech processing, and in turn reading. She’s also found that learning to play an instrument, as opposed to just taking music appreciation classes, can have an even greater effect on speech processing. Of the underprivileged students in her study who received music education, 90% went on to college, even though the neighborhood in which she conducted her study has a 50% high school dropout rate.
7. Helps engage children in learning
It’s been found that the arts, and music in particular, have a positive impact on students’ math, reading, writing, and self-esteem. The arts require thinking beyond simple formulas and patterns; they are about relationships, and the ability to navigate different kinds of relationships is vital in both the workforce and life. The arts also involve problem-solving and creativity, which are of course important in academic life and life in general.