The Superpower of Sound Processing and a Sense of Rhythm

Sue Newman, Boogie Mites
15th August 2023

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Regular practice of music and movement in early years builds strong foundations for cross-curricular development in the EYFS. A recent evaluation project found that when an evidence-based music programme of daily, effective, group music-making activities are followed in the pre-school year, in areas of high deprivation, we see a boost in: 

  • Attention, listening and speaking skills 
  • Self-regulation
  • Gross and fine motor skills 
  • Building relationships and group skills 
  • Language and comprehension 
  • Foundations for Literacy and Maths 

Read the Merton School Project Report here.

This raises the question – why is music only mentioned in the 7th Area of learning in the EYFS – but that is for another article! 

We need to review the neuroscience evidence to understand what is going on in the brain in the early years, when children are involved in rich and varied music and movement practice, to understand the cross-curricular benefits. 

At Boogie Mites we call the neural networks connecting the auditory/visual/motor cortices of the brain, the ‘magic triangle’. 

The Magic Triangle

Studies with 3-4 year olds show us that for the brain to process the component parts of language a huge number of messages need to fire around the brain, and they use the same circuit of neural pathways that are developed through regular music and movement practice in early years, connecting the ‘magic triangle’ between the 3 cortices of the brain – Visual /Auditory/Motor. (Dr Anita Collins, Neuromusical Researcher, Founder Bigger Better Brains) 

Music and movement activities are a most efficient and effective way of developing these neural pathways in early childhood, a dominant influence being strengthening of the sound processing system.   

Sound Processing 

Sound is our first sense, we start hearing before we are born. Sound is our first alarm system, it can keep us alert and calm us down. 

Within the inner ear is the vestibular system which connects the ear and sound processing to the whole body. This is significant because changes to sound processing can impact on global development. This makes our sound processing system a superpower! 

It also helps to explain its dominant influence on the ‘magic triangle’ network which is key for language and learning, and on cross-curricular development including social, emotional and physical development. 

Rhythmic Awareness 

Developing rhythmic awareness alongside sound processing skills is key to strengthening the ‘magic triangle’ processing circuit, to prepare vision ready for reading. A strong ‘magic triangle’, neural connections between the auditory/motor/visual cortices of the brain, is key to cognitive and physical skills generally, the key to motor sensory integration. 

Rhythmic awareness is often the missing link for children with language and/or reading delays. Rhythm is an integral part of both music and language, and the rhythm of spoken language is a crucial cue to understanding.  Musical training—with its emphasis on rhythmic skills—can exercise the motor/auditory system, leading to less neural jitter and stronger sound-to-meaning associations that are so essential to learning to read. 

 “Children with dyslexia find it challenging to hear speech rhythm and speech timing, and in perceiving musical rhythm and timing. Early Years educators can take simple steps to benefit language skills and minimise the impact of dyslexia. Having a rich early repertoire of singing and musical remediation will help match syllable beat patterns to language before they start learning to read.”  

Prof Usha Goswami, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience, University of Cambridge 

What Music Activities Work? 

Traditional music and nursery rhymes are great, they harness some of the benefits evidenced by neuroscience and research studies 

To harness all of the benefits we need to: 

  • Include lots of rhythmic activities, keeping the beat and playing with tempo and different rhythms…. best achieved through use of recorded music written for this age group and purpose. 
  • Include lots of melodic activities, playing with dynamics, pitch, hearing harmonies, different instruments….best achieved through use of recorded music written for this age group and purpose. 
  • Engage and motivate all involved, the teachers, parents and children….best achieved through use of recorded music written for this purpose 

Harnessing the power of music in early years education 

To harness the power of music we need to provide training, knowledge, confidence and resources to our early years educators. Currently, there is very little, if any, inclusion of music and movement training in early years FE courses, undergraduate degrees or professional training qualifications. You do not need to be a musician to lead effective music-making activities in the early years, all educators and parents should have access to training and resources so that their children have the opportunity for optimal development of sound processing and rhythmic awareness, to maximise motor sensory integration by the time they start formal education giving them the best chance to thrive at school.  

Boogie Mites are committed to providing this music training based on 25 years experience of in delivering music workshops, parent and teacher education courses, creating digital resources and measuring evaluation of impact. 

Sign up to trial 2 Boogie Mites songs; an action song (Clap, Clap, Clap) and a percussion drumming song (Bangedy Bang Bang) here

Find out more about Boogie Mites Music Programmes, training and resources by visiting their website.

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