Music Therapy for Children - What are the Benefits?

How Music Therapy Can Inspire Kids to Communicate Through Song

Music is a useful resource when it comes to providing joy, relief, or relaxation in times of stress. Music therapy has been proven to relieve stress and pain, as well as improve communication and self-expression in many individuals. In the case of young children, music therapy is incredibly effective. Engaging with music stimulates many different parts of the brain across both hemispheres. Other subjects such as reading, writing, or mathematics, stimulate specific areas of the brain. Music breaks down the boundaries between the two hemispheres of the brain. For children who are still in the early stages of cognitive development, this makes music especially stimulating and engaging.

  • Teaching Children Through Music
  • How Music Relieves Anxiety and Stress
  • Benefits of Music Therapy for Children with Autism 
  • The Different Effects of Music Therapy on Children of all Ages

Teaching Children Through Music

We teach children songs that help them learn the alphabet, multiplication tables, days of the week, etc. Not only is music useful as a memorization tool, but it is also as an incentive to participate in a classroom setting. Part of what makes music such an effective tool is how it creates a fun environment that children want to actively engage in. 

These very common and widely accepted teaching practices show how beneficial music can be in encouraging children to become more active and engaged. Music affects more than just the mind too. Engaging with instruments in group settings is an especially great way for children to improve their fine motor skills. Especially when performing in an ensemble, children have to learn to become more focused on their surroundings in order to play in rhythm with the other performers around them. All of these skills can be improved through learning about, listening to, and playing music. They are especially valuable to children who are still in critical stages of their cognitive development. 

Many children in an auditorium holding up their colorful Ukelele's overhead.
Learning an instrument in an ensemble can benefit children’s developing social skills. 

How Music Relieves Anxiety and Stress

At the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, music therapy has been widely implemented in caring for young patients, leading to a reported decrease in distress by 20%, and pain by 10%. For many children, music provides alleviation from anxiety. If a child struggles to acknowledge or discuss their emotions, they may find it easier to express themselves through music. It might be easier for them to do so through music, as opposed to spoken or written forms. Calming or slow music can decrease one’s heart rate if they are experiencing acute stress or anxiety. Since music stimulates many parts of the brain, it is an excellent resource for helping people process internal and external information . 

Child with headphones on holding them over his ears with a peaceful look on his face.
Listening to music is a fantastic way to quickly alleviate some anxiety.

Benefits of Music Therapy for Children with Autism 

Music therapy is particularly beneficial for children who struggle with anxiety disorders or Autism. One reason for this is that engaging with music causes stimulation of both hemispheres of the brain. In a classroom setting, this would make focusing and communicating one’s thoughts much easier. 

Research has also shown that because children with Autism struggle to engage socially, the introduction of musical instruments can help them navigate different social situations. This offers children an opportunity to gain confidence when communicating with their peers.

The Different Effects of Music Therapy on Children of all Ages 

Since an infant has a different level of understanding than an older child or teenager, there has to be a different approach used for music therapy. All of the following practices are employed at Children’s Minnesota and have been tailored to children of a specific age group. This maximizes the positive outcomes children can expect from engaging with music. 

In infants, music therapy mainly works toward reducing stress. If they are experiencing stress, music therapists are able to lower an infants’ heart rates by singing to them. With toddlers, the anxiety they might feel in their healthcare experience can be vastly improved by listening to calming music. Older children are able to actively engage with music by playing an instrument or singing their favorite song. These activities promote higher self-esteem and allow them more control in a session. All of these approaches work quite well as coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety.

Child sitting at a piano with their hand on the keys while a parent sits behind them.
Learning to play an instrument through music therapy helps challenge children’s developing motor skills.

All in all, music therapy has many positive effects on people of all ages. For children in particular, music therapy allows them to engage more actively with the world around them and cope with certain situations that may be difficult for them. Music therapy is an incredibly powerful tool and coping mechanism for children who are still developing cognitively and are not able to communicate their thoughts and emotions. Be sure to contact Incadence if you are interested in music therapy services for your child.

Edited by Cara Jernigan on January 19, 2021

Lily Taggart
Learn More >>
Make a Difference

Become a Music Therapist with Incadence

Incadence is transforming the health care industry. By joining our team, you can be a part of this revolution and a leader in health care.

Contact Us