The power of music - Enhancing young children's wellbeing -®
The power of music:
Enhancing young children's wellbeing
By Galina Zenin, Music & Early Childhood Consultant
In this third instalment of my Power of Music series of articles for, we're going to look at the wellbeing of young children. The subject of wellbeing has been prominent in both education and parenting circles in recent times as its importance becomes more and more recognised.

If you're wondering what wellbeing is precisely, a quick search tells us that it is a noun that can be defined as "a state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy". I quite like that simple, clear definition. Wellbeing comprises social, emotional and physical wellness to contribute to the overall state of a person. Throughout this article we'll take a look at how music supports each of these areas to contribute to enhancing overall wellbeing.

Physical wellbeing

Music provides motivation to be physically active and improves children's general physical ability. Through reduction of muscle tension and the improvement of coordination and movement, music is a beautiful way of assisting children's physical development. It makes some other surprise contributions to physical health as well: dancing and moving to music aside, music appears to affect our bodies' neurochemicals resulting in a boost to the immune system, warding off infection and helping to prevent obesity.

Professor Daniel J. Levitin from the Psychology Department at Canada's McGill University found many health benefits of 'musical intervention'. These highlights were particularly interesting (as listed on Medical Daily):
  • People who listened to music had an increase in their levels of Immunoglobulin A (IgA), a type of antibody that is present at mucosal surfaces (digestive tract, lungs, etc.) and helps to prevent infections.
  • Music listeners had higher numbers of an immune cell type called 'natural killer cells,' whose job it is to attack bacteria, infected cells, and cancerous cells.
  • Listening to music reduced levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is a stress hormone that has many physiological effects, one of which has a role in promoting obesity.
With music obviously stimulating chemical outcomes in our bodies, it's unsurprising that the above research, along with an abundance of additional studies, also find notable emotional benefits.

Emotional wellbeing

Listening to, singing and making music impacts our emotions and those of children – it's something many of us can feel almost immediately in ourselves when we are exposed to music and certainly I see this happen in children every single day.

One of the key things I have taken great pleasure and pride in over my years working with both music and with young children is the confidence that blossoms with learning through music. Along with a boost in confidence, I mentioned earlier that researchers have discovered that music can decrease the amount of the 'stress hormone' cortisol. What a combination for children (and adults!) – more confidence and less stress! Furthermore, "research suggests that music can stimulate the body's natural feel good chemicals (eg. endorphins, oxytocin), it can help energise our mood and even help us work through problems and provide an outlet for us to take control of our feelings" (

In my previous article I made mention of memorisation of songs, and in this article I'd like to highlight the importance of the content of songs – specifically their lyrics or wording. Complementing the fact that music decreases stress, negative emotions and calms children, words in songs can even serve as positive affirmations. Working to build on musical activity's predisposition to shaping a positive and content sense of emotional wellbeing.

According to Broh in 'Linking extracurricular programming to academic achievement' (2002) published in Sociology of Education, students who participated in musical activities had higher self-esteem and motivation levels, in part stemming from the improved relationships they had with parents and teachers. The children who took part in musical activities talked to their parents and teachers more, leading also to richer social relationships.

Social wellbeing

In the article The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children by Susan Hallam from the Institute of Education, University of London, research in Europe has demonstrated that incorporating music into the curriculum increased social bonds, allowed for improved social adjustment and overall attitudes in children were more positive.

As the prevalence of social anxiety grows in children in the world we live in today, the importance of social development has never been greater. And based on the ample research available, music can play a pivotal role in promoting healthy, positive social development as well as preventing and remedying social issues when embedded in educational settings.

On a practical level, music helps children learn that together they can make something extra special that they couldn't do alone – what a dynamic social experience that can only promote a sense of healthy social wellbeing for young people.

Music enhances children's wellbeing: at a glance

Physical Wellbeing: Encourages physical activity; reduces muscle tension; stimulates feel-good hormones; boosts immunity

Emotional Wellbeng: Calming effect; reduces negative emotions; lyrics can function as positive affirmations; uplifts the spirit

Social Wellbeing: Facilitates team work; increases self esteem; builds confidence; can embed social skills

There is no such thing as being too young to begin enhancing wellbeing. If anything, early childhood is the ideal time to promote the importance of mental health, emotions, social development and physical wellness. More than that, nurturing overall wellbeing and health in children should be practical and fun, so children enjoy wellbeing routines and understand the value of practicing healthy habits and learning ways of improving their own wellbeing on an every day basis.

Practical tips for supporting children's wellbeing with music

- Play music every day. Play all different kinds of music and talk to children about how they feel before and after listening. Discuss how some songs make us feel happy, sad or excited. Consider the difference between songs – were there a lot of words that had an impact, or was it the tempo of a classical piece that made them feel a certain way.

- Get up and dance. Move to music around the house or in the backyard and enjoy getting physical and encourage children to use different body parts to express how the music makes them feel.

- Don't be afraid to sing along. Children are often less inhibited than adults when it comes to singing. But go on, let loose and feel the benefits of singing together.

- Make your own music. An ice cream container for a drum and a pencil for a beater is all you need! Of course, if you have an old guitar or recorder, that's great too. Get creative and let children experiment with music and see what happens.

Make music a part of yours and your children's lives and enhance your wellbeing!

To find out more about the first music kinder in Australia, visit the Bonkers Beat website. To share your ideas and views, visit the Bonkers Beat Facebook page.

Previous articles

The Benefits of Teaching Children through music Part 1

The Benefits of Teaching Children through music Part 2
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