Young children who march, wiggle and tap a beat aids them to develop their self-regulation skills and improve school readiness, a new study shows.
In the newly published early childhood research by Queensland University of Technology (QUT), rhythm and movement activities were found to be linked to pathways in the brain to support attentional and emotional development.
The study, involving 113 children from lower socioeconomic communities, measured the effectiveness of the program to boost self-regulation skills.
Associate Professor Kate Williams designed a preschool program that focuses on this link. Its potential could see an improvement across a range of metrics, including student learning outcomes and wellbeing.
“Think heads, shoulders, knees and toes, but do the actions backwards while you sing forwards. It tricks the brain into gear,” Associate Professor Williams said.
“Being able to control your own emotions, cognition and behaviours is an important predictor of school readiness and early school achievement.”
Associate Professor Williams said the aim is for regular sessions to be introduced into daily activities of young children to help support their attentional and emotional regulation skills, inhibition and working memory.
“We want all early childhood teachers to feel confident to run these fun and important activities,” she said.
The findings have been published today in the international peer-reviewed Psychology of Music.
The study is a unique investigation about preschool children and the application of a rhythm and movement program to address socioeconomic-related school readiness and achievement gaps.
Associate Professor Williams said differences in neurological processes can produce educational inequalities for young children who experience disadvantage. It’s been identified by UNICEF as an international priority.
The study recognises what Associate Professor Williams describes as the ‘musician advantage’ – enhanced neural plasticity and executive functioning – particularly among children given formal musical instruction.
“The children who have music lessons from a young age are often from families who can afford them,” she said.
“The problem is that the children who most need the musician advantage miss out because it isn’t affordable for all families to access highly quality music programs”.
She said the benefits of early shared book reading between parents and children have long been established.
Another recent Australian study, led by Associate Professor Williams, was the first to show that early shared music activities in the home also contribute to positive development.
The preschool program involved group sessions for 30 minutes twice a week across eight weeks, with stages becoming more challenging to stimulate change and development in self-regulation skills.