Growing Bookworms – Developmental benefits of music for young children

When I was at school, we had music lessons during which we learned to play certain easy songs on an instrument like a recorder or a xylophone. We were also taught to sing musical notes in much the same way as Maria teaches the von Trapp children to sing notes in the film The Sound of Music.

I can remember listening to stories that taught me and my classmates about musical instruments and the different sounds they make. Peter and the Wolf comes to mind, as well as my personal favourite, Sparky’s Magic Piano.

If you are interested in watching Sparky’s Magic Piano, or have a child you would like to share it with, you can watch it here:

I always wanted to learn how to play the piano. Our neighbour started teaching me once and I was getting along nicely, but then we moved to another town and the opportunity didn’t present itself again.

Both my sons had music lessons and Gregory passed Grade 5 theory and practical piano. Michael initially wanted to learn the violin, but that didn’t last very long. He went on to learn the piano for a few years and is now having drum lessons.

Before my sons were born, I remember reading that learning to play an instrument was beneficial to the study of mathematics and this is one of the reasons I encouraged music so much with my sons.  I understand that this link has been demonstrated through a study conducted by NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants Foundation) (You can read more about it here:

More recently, I discovered recently that scientists at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute have discovered a link between music in early childhood and accelerated brain development. You can read more about that study here:

Studies have demonstrated that learning music can improve speech and readings skills in children by increasing their abilities to differential between different sounds and understand the patterns of language.

The top ten benefits of music and learning a musical instrument for children are as follows:

  1. Improved brain development due to music’s ability to stimulate parts of the brain that govern hearing, memory, movement, and emotion.
  2. Improved social skills as music helps children identify facial expressions, communicate with peers, and empathise with others.
  3. Increases creativity and builds problem solving skills.
  4. Learning to play an instrument promotes self-discipline in children.
  5. Learning to play an instrument increases children’s self-esteem.
  6. Musically trained children have better memories as music strengthens the hippocampus in the brain, which plays a vital role in regulating learning, memory encoding, memory consolidation, and spatial navigation.
  7. There is an overlap of the brain connections which process music and language with the result that learning music and learning to read complement each other.
  8. Music is a natural mood enhancer and helps children to reduce stress by calming and soothing them.
  9. Children who learn music have a better ability to control their own behaviour, emotions, and impulses.
  10. Learning a musical instrument improves co-ordination in children.

The one thing I noticed with my son, Gregory, who was reading music fluently at the age of five, was that the transition from written musical notes to written letters was a bit of an effort for him. It was a bit like learning a second language. This was not a big disadvantage for him, but it did take a little longer for him to learn the alphabet than I expected. Michael learned the alphabet before I started music lessons with him, and he found it more difficult to learn the music notes than the alphabet.

About Robbie Cheadle

Award-winning, bestselling author, Robbie Cheadle, has published thirteen children’s book and two poetry books. Her work has also appeared in poetry and short story anthologies.

Robbie also has two novels published under the name of Roberta Eaton Cheadle and has horror, paranormal, and fantasy short stories featured in several anthologies under this name.

The ten Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie’s blog includes recipes, fondant and cake artwork, poetry, and book reviews.

Jeff’s Movie Reviews – Hamilton on Disney+

Jeff's Movie Reviews

I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot

by Jeff Bowles

For a Broadway musical that’s only been around five years, Hamilton casts a long shadow. It’s won countless Tonys, has earned millions of fans all over the world, and it’s just received a major home release on the Disney+ streaming platform, the date of which happened to coincide with the 244th birthday of the United States.

Movie theaters throughout the country are still closed, but that doesn’t mean new film experiences (or even old experiences freshly released) aren’t still coming down the Hollywood pipeline. Lots of films are seeing the light of day as home releases, and all the streaming platforms have really kicked their exclusives games into high gear.

I’ve got a confession to make. Before watching Hamilton on Disney+ this past week, I’d never seen it before. Scratch that, I’d never even heard a song. Not because I’m not a fan of a good musical or because I object to the combination of classic American history with modern American urban swagger, which so many people have seemed to do. Nope, my reasons for never having experienced a single moment of Hamilton are very simple. I am landlocked in the heart of the Colorado foothills, and to me, Broadway might as well be on the other side of the galaxy.

Still, if you don’t mind the impressions of a Hamilton virgin, I don’t mind offering them. The first thing that stood out to me was the simplicity of the stage and the complexity of the staging. Much like Rent, which I do believe Hamilton has borrowed at least a little inspiration from, the entire production happens on a single vague and rather brown-looking stage setup that is wider than it is vertical. Action may occur on the upper deck of the wood-frame stage construction, but its more likely to happen on a kind of front-and-center lazy Suzan that allows for an impressive amount of movement without much needed in the way of set dressing or overly articulated scenery.

All of this enables the raw performances to shine through in some fairly impressive ways. This is a play about Alexander Hamilton, after all, one of America’s more colorful founding fathers. Pistol dueling is kind of a thing in the guy’s story, and every one presented in this play looks, feels, and sounds different from the one that came before.

See the source image

The leading men of Hamilton

Some people have a problem with all the hip hop and R&B, especially as it’s applied to a historical setting and cast of characters that in reality were wealthy, white, and often owned slaves. Is the setup and mixture jarring? Not to me, but then, I like hip hop, and there is a certain joy to be found, isn’t there? Especially this year? In a positive modern depiction of American History from the context of race and ethnicity? The Battle of Yorktown, for instance, explodes sonically, and it’s all because the rhymes are strong and the vocals are powerful. Other unexpected musical treats include any and every King George III segment and the singular visionary performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton himself. He’s kind of soft spoken, especially in moments of reflection, and though he sometimes runs the risk of getting blown off the stage by more powerful performances, it’s never in doubt to whom this show belongs.

The cast disseminate a lot of information through song lyrics, so you have to stay sharp to follow the story for the first time, especially if you’re not much of a history student. This is perhaps my biggest gripe overall with Hamilton. In the science fiction and fantasy racket we’ve got a thing called info dumping, which implies in a sloppy way exactly what it sounds like. Well get ready, because Hamilton does an awful lot of info dumping, the kind you used to hate in grade school. Dates and names. Ewww. Actually, I’m not sure how else a three hour musical is meant to relate bare bones historical facts, but perhaps in the long run the history of one man is maybe a poor bedfellow for musical theater.

And what about the history itself? Does it check out in terms of accuracy? A lot of hay has been made about the show and its tendency to gloss over or just plain leave out certain key events and elements of Alexander Hamilton’s life and story. I honestly have to wonder as a storyteller myself, is that really such a crime? Or have quote, unquote “historical” plays, movies, TV shows, and even musicals been leaving out the dry stuff for hundreds of years? I mean for cripes sake, even Shakespeare fudged the facts in his famous histories. And that guy didn’t have to rap to sell records (sorry, couldn’t resist).

The performance shown in Disney’s Hamilton was recorded way, way, way back in the ancient year 2016, when people could go out without wearing masks and theater was actually something an individual could participate in. It’s almost like opening a time capsule, but that’s a welcome feeling after the year 2020 has been. Hamilton was a nice diversion for me over my Fourth of July holiday. I’d even say it was needed, especially at a time like this, when I like so many others have been forced to do some deep thinking about my world, my society, my culpability. Even if it’s not a perfect show, even if I get the sense I’ll have to watch it a few more times to really catch every nuance, I quite enjoyed the sense of completeness and strength given to me by Hamilton.

And hey, I’ve got time. Calculated and somewhat neutered American history paired with modern American swagger? Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives Hamilton on Disney+ a 9 out of 10.

How hot do you think all that wool clothing was under those stage lights? Yeesh. It’s enough to make a guy want to pistol duel someone, am I right?

Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!

Love Madness Demon Cover Final

Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!

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