Executive Functioning and the Role of Music
Executive Functioning is a term that describes a set of mental skills which includes:
- Working memory.
- Flexibility in thinking.
- Self-control, or impulse control.
As children develop so do their executive functioning skills, however, sometimes children have trouble with these skills. This can result in:
- Difficulty focusing.
- Difficulty in following directions.
- Difficulty in handling emotions.
- Difficulty in controlling impulses.
Did you know music has the capacity to foster change and growth in these areas?
There is a relationship between music and executive functioning. Researchers have been studying the link between the power of music and executive functioning. The British Journal of Psychology published a study in 2011 which showed that, unlike language, music is a “uniquely spatio-temporal’ domain of activity, which engages both hemispheres of the brain. This means that while you and your child are in a music class, or using music at home, children’s brains are being engaged in a ‘whole brain’ experience. This multi-sensory experience is one of the most optimal ways to foster development.
Recently MacPhail Center for Music embarked on conducting a study looking at the impact of music on executive functioning in young children. Currently, this study awaits publication, and while we cannot discuss the results at length, it was found that music has a significant impact on these skills.
The Sing, Play, Learn experience:
Teaching artists at MacPhail Center for Music, tailor and craft the musical experience to meet the needs of the children in their classrooms. We use Start/Stop songs to foster impulse control. We use “call and response” songs to foster following directions and listening skills. We use counting songs for cognitive development and working memory and for highlighting patterns that foster higher levels of thinking.