Making music can improve kids’ behaviour and cooperation skills

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October 15, 2013
Children may benefit from making music

Clap, dance, and sing! A recent study from the University of West London in the United Kingdom supports the idea that getting children involved in making music has the ability to improve their behaviour and problem solving skills.

Carried out by a team of researchers at the University of West London’s school of Psychology, the study randomly assigned 24 girls and 24 boys, all aged four, into two different groups, one featuring the use of music and one without any music. In the music group, children sang and played percussion, while their counter parts in the non-music group listened to a story. After these activities, both groups played two different games that emphasized the use of cooperation and the need to provide help to their group- mates. The results of this experiment showed that the children in the music group were 30 times more likely to help each other, and six times more likely to co-operate than the non-music group.[1] Additionally, researchers found that in the music group alone, girls were much more likely than boys to provide help or be more cooperative after making music.[2]

These findings echo an earlier 2010 German study that featured 96 four-year-old children from 16 different daycares. In this study, children were again divided into two different groups – one which featured a music-making activity and another which did not. After the groups finished their activity, two games were played that required the children to be helpful or cooperative with their peers. As seen in the UK study, children who had been in the music group were far more likely to help each other. Furthermore, children from the music group who did not display help were far more likely to provide an excuse as to why they were unable to help, showing greater empathy than their non-music peers. [3]

Some educators have also been enthusiastic about using music in the classroom. In Atlanta, kindergarten teacher Shelvia Ivey found that both shy, reserved students and active students are able to express themselves through making music and dance. [4] Outside of a school environment, music programs designed for toddlers and young children are available across North America through The Music Class, which advocates for early childhood music involvement.

Although these are only two studies that show the beneficial effects of making music, it demonstrates how influential music may be on human development. From making children more social, to helping adults relax after a long day at work, music may have more effects on us than we fully know.

[1] British Psychological Society (BPS) (2013, September 5). ‘Making music may improve young children’s behavior’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from

[2] ibid

[3] Kirschner, S., & Tomasello, M. (2010). Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children. Volution and Human Behaviour, 31, 354-364. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from

[4] Castro, C. (2012, February 7). Can music improve behavior?. Schools of Thought – blogs. Retrieved September 19, 2013, from

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