Why music is good for your little ones







Playing music while playing with your child won’t just make them giggle, it could also boost their brainpower. Brain regions key to music and speech are found to be sharper in nine-month-old boys and girls who attended musical play sessions.

University of Washington researchers said that exposure to the rhythms and patterns of music may make it easier for youngsters to make sense of the ever-changing world around them.

Infants experience a complex world where sounds, lights and sensations constantly change. Pattern recognition is an important cognitive skill, and improving that ability early on could have long-lasting and positive effects on learning.

I believe all children should be given the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. Playing music develops and improves motor skills, increases creativity, and teaches children to work together. Music also gives them an opportunity to take part in and enjoy one of the things that makes life worth living.


Games and numbers








Encouraging your children to count on their fingers and play number games WILL improve their maths skills.

Researchers at Sheffield Hallam and Bristol Universities have confirmed what many parents instinctively knew all along – counting on fingers and playing games with number symbols, like dominoes, card games and snakes & ladders, plays an important part in improving mathematical and quantitative skills.

The study shows that fingers provide children with a ‘bridge’ between different representations of numbers, which can be verbal, written or symbolic. These activities also involve motor skills in different parts of the brain and thus aid memory.

Combined finger and number games could be a useful tool for teachers to encourage children’s understanding of numbers. Primary school children aged 6 to 7 years old who were encouraged to count on their fingers and play number symbol games like dominoes etc. did significantly better in mathematical and quantitative skills tests than those who just had typical maths lessons.


Music makes smarter children







Learning to play a musical instrument makes children better listeners.

Learning to play music at an early age contributes to better brain development, optimising the creation and establishment of neural networks, and stimulating existing neural pathways. Brain scans show a significant increase in brain connections in children after just nine months of learning to play an instrument, improving youngster’s development.

Making music enhances their fine motor skills and teaches them to cooperate and work as a team. Music helps with maths skills and gives them an appreciation of the finer things in life. In the case of classical music, it also teaches children some history and an understanding of the human condition. It also helps with their emotional and social skills development.

From an article published in the Journal of Neuroscience


The right kind of praise







Parents and teachers often use praise to reward children – but praise can backfire if it’s applied in the wrong way. Children praised for being smart are more likely to cheat in tests because they feel pressure to perform well to live up to their parent’s or teacher’s expectations.

According to researchers from the University of Toronto, children respond better if you praise specific behaviour, because that doesn’t make children feel that they are always expected to perform well. This takes a huge amount of pressure off and removes the temptation to cheat.

Pre-school children, praised for being smart, were found to be more likely to cheat in tests than those who were praised for doing well in a single task. In addition, children who were told they had a reputation for being smart were also more likely to cheat.

Of course, we want children to feel good about themselves, but the research shows that despite the subtle difference between the two forms of praise, there were significant effects on behaviour.


Music and maths








Many of the skills musicians must master to play their instrument are duplicated for mathematical achievement. However, the precise relationship between music and maths is still unclear. Scientists are still unsure which influences the development of the other.

Some studies indicate that musical training exerts a positive influence on mathematical ability. For instance, individuals who learn to play an instrument are known to have higher scores in maths exams compared to their non-musical peers.

Learning to play music involves specific mathematical skills such as fractions and ratios, even though the application of these skills is not always done at the conscious level. Musicians count how many beats there are in a bar and how many bars there are in a phrase. The length of any musical note for example can be divided by two, three, four, five, six, and so on. Volume and tone are also based on comparative ratios. Musicianship also involves listening, watching, remembering and anticipating.

Other studies have suggested that an aptitude for music and mathematics are driven by high-level cognitive processing skills necessary for both. Executive functions such as the cognitive processes that regulate our ability to learn, reason, remember and plan are known to predict academic achievement in maths. Musicians also develop these cognitive processes when they train their brains to carry out the fine motor movements involved in varied tempos, timbres, key signatures and interpretation.

There may also be other contributory factors that determine success in music and maths. It is equally possible that non-cognitive variables like socioeconomics and education are involved. Plainly, growing up in a family with significant financial resources means you are more likely to afford music lessons. Either way, there is no better activity for your children.


The 6 C’s







Instead of focusing on ‘success’ at school, we should teach our children how to be social, navigate relationships and be good citizens. Interaction between parents and children – rather than gadgets – will help children develop these skills. What teach our children today will have a direct impact on their future.

We can teach children how to use computers, but they just spit out facts. We should be teaching them the ‘6 Cs’ – according to Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children, by Professor Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Golinkoff of the University of Delaware.

1) Collaboration: Vital both in and out of school. Children have to learn to get along with others and control their impulses – like learning not to push in etc. Everything a child does, in the classroom or at home, must be built on that understanding.

2) Communication: the ability to read, write, speak and listen.

3) Content: is built on communication. Children can only learn if they understand how to use language.

4) Critical thinking: A practical example of encouraging critical thinking is always taking the time to answer your child’s questions. Even better, encourage them to ask more. Children will be smarter if they understand how other people think.

5) Creative innovation: Children need to understand things well enough to create something new.

6) Confidence: is critical in order to teach children to take safe risks. Outdoor play with others is an important part of this.


 Bully beef










Children need to know they have the support of their parents.

Parents who suspect their child is being bullied should immediately speak to teachers and principles rather than confront the other child or their parents – that seldom works. Better to get the professionals involved – that’s what they’re there for.

Some tell tale signs your child is being bullied:

* Unexplained marks on their body, such as cuts, grazes or bruises,

* Unexplained loss of toys, school dinner money, devices, or even clothing,

* They’re ravenous when they get home – because lunch money lunch has been taken,

* They suddenly stop talking about school,

* There is a significant drop in grades, caused by difficulty in concentrating,

* There is a sudden marked change in personality, eg. becoming very quiet or sullen,

* They make excuses not to go to school, such as unexplained headaches/stomach aches,

* They start dropping out of school activities,

* They suddenly have fewer friends or no longer belong to the ‘regular group’,

* They suddenly start taking a different route to or from school,

* They become afraid of riding on the school bus,

* They become afraid of being left alone,

* They need you there to meet them after school,

* They wait to get home to use the bathroom (school bathrooms are often bullying hot-spots,)

* Bullied children often start bullying other smaller or younger children,

* They run away from home.


Cotton wool? Bad idea!





The preoccupation with wellbeing – an edict of the nanny state intended to tackle anxiety and stress in youngsters – is leading children to believe normal emotional reactions to stress are signs of mental illness.

At the behest of the Department for Education (UK) thousands of teachers have been trained in ‘mindfulness’ – supposedly to encourage positive thinking, reduce stress and improve performance. But experts say lessons in wellbeing are making pupils MORE unhappy because they find it difficult to live up to the expectations presented to them by adults.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment at Buckingham University, has called for the happiness programmes to be put under close scrutiny – I agree. Anyone can set up as a wellbeing consultant and the market has grown to industrial proportions. There is no regulation, no accepted standard, and a great risk that children will be referred for counselling without question. This has to stop!

Feeling stressed and anxious is not a mental health problem and it doesn’t do children any favours to be wrapped in cotton wool. Part of growing up is learning to take the knocks as well as the good things in life. One solution – turn the computer off and explore the great outdoors!


Screen addiction








Now the holidays are nearly here, we need to prize our teenagers away from their screens.

There has been a 50% increase in technology use by teenagers in the last 10 years.

Teenagers who become slaves to their devices are risking their long-term health.

A 2014 report by World Health Organisation scientists at the University of St Andrews collated responses from more than 200,000 pupils in 42 countries. It put the UK near the top of a European league table for teenage gadget use.

Only 25% of boys meet the UK Government recommendation for exercise of at least an hour a day – including walking. Girls’ greater obsession with social media means that only about 14% of them meet that target.

Sedentary behaviours now dominate adolescent’s lives, accounting for approximately 60% of their waking time, making sedentary behaviour the most common behaviour after sleep.

Parents! Limit screen time and get your kids outside, exploring the great outdoors, playing games, having conversations… that sort of thing… you know – all the things we used to do when we were truly free…

For more information about screen addiction, please go to:

Digital heroin

Technology is making our kids stupid

Video Nasty II

Phone separation anxiety – worse than PTSD?

Lots of social media accounts? No wonder you’re depressed


Want better exam results? Look good, feel good!







Researchers and psychologists at Harvard University say that self-esteem has a knock-on effect on memory and confidence and can increase mental ability by as much as 20%.

Smart, clean clothes and even make-up make us feel better about ourselves and more confident during times of stress.

200 female undergraduates, all studying the same subject, all with similar levels of self-esteem, similar make-up habits and similar IQs, were randomly split into three groups and asked to put on make-up, listen to music, or draw. All then took an exam based on a chapter of a textbook they had just read. Results showed that those who used cosmetics scored an average of 24.2 out of 30, compared to 19.9 and 22 in the other groups.

(Reported in the journal Cogent Psychology.)


For more information on all the above issues, please go to:

Improving children’s language and maths skills

Bully beef

How to make a happy, well-adjusted child

Baby talk

Liar, liar, pants on fire!


Copyright Andrew Newton 2017. All rights reserved.