Monday, September 27, 2010

Children Creating Music in Cyber-world: Is It Enough To Make Them Smarter?


Carter, Christine. “How Learning Music Can Enhance Kids’ Brain Development”. The Huffington Post. (23 September 2010). Retrieved from

TheToonsTunes website
    The author believes that music training in early childhood enhances the brain to pick out specific sounds patterns, helps them to develop language skills, and leads to the social and emotional intelligence behind the speech, which is proven by many researches. As a mom and a professional parenting advisor, she was intrigued by the benefit of musical training and tried to sign her daughter up for music lessons. While questioning the sufficient amount of training needed for brain development, she found the suggestion made by Nina Kraus, a neurobiologist and a sociologist at Northwestern, to provide at least 20 minutes of musical training per day. However, providing sufficient money and time for her daughter’s music lessons as suggested was impractical. While looking for alternatives, she got introduced to a website called ToonsTunes, where children can create music online regardless of previous musical knowledge. She is optimistic that the website will work as a great alternative to formal music education for her children because it is engaging, practical, and more importantly, the process is self-driven.


    It is impressive that many parents are aware that music enhances kids’ brain development, and interested in providing some kind of musical training for children. However, the term ‘musical training’ is vague. Can any type of exposure to music, such as listening, playing random notes on instruments, get private lessons, or playing ToonsTunes website help children’s brain development? Is one way better than another?
According to the dictionary definition, the word ‘training’ means “the education, instruction, or discipline of a person or thing that is being trained”, which implies that there is a teacher-learner relationship involved. Probably this definition of ‘training’ is why some parents feel obliged to provide some kind of music ‘lessons’ for their children, and therefore musical training could be seen as it is only for the privileged ones. However, parents should not feel guilty or anxious about not able to provide private music lessons since ‘experiencing’ music is what develops the brain to pick up certain sound patterns and interpret, which leads to language and emotional intelligence; more exposure to variety of musical activity is what matters. Private lessons might be the best way if a child wants to develop an expertise on a specific instrument, but it is not the one and only way. Some parents might say that still there is a need for someone with expertise in order to improve, or some type of ensemble experience is necessary for social development, and here is when the school music program plays its role; under the premise that the school music teacher is good, parents should not worry about the ‘training’ part.

Creating music in ToonsTunes
I investigated the ToonsTunes website. Targeted for young children, this website has incorporated popular music and entertainment. You get to have your own avatar to wonder around the cyber-world, buy instruments and clothes, meet other avatars and chat, create music, save, load, or share your own music with others. It was quite thrilling to create an enjoyable short rock music piece within few clicks; you just have to choose among the variety of premade short phrases and mix them, and of course it is designed that any kind of combination will sound pleasant. ToonsTunes is certainly an innovative way to explore, create, and enjoy music in a self-driven way. Although it cannot be said that ToonsTunes is the one complete way to develop children’s brain thoroughly, it is worthy to be added to your children’s musical activities. 

1 comment:

Lisa Tahara said...

It is surprising to me when I hear from my own students' parents that they cannot get their young child to practice for any more than 20 minutes a day. When I recall my own enthusiasm for musical activity at that age, I find that I have a hard time understanding why times seem to have changed so drastically.

I believe that the answer lies with the advent of technology. There are so many 'distractions' for lack of a better word, for young children in this day and age. I am always trying to look for ways to incorporate technology in teaching children, but under normal circumstances (teaching at a studio, etc.) it is typically not possible.

Thank you for introducing us to ToonsTunes! I agree with you in that it should not be used as the one complete way to develop children's brains thoroughly. I am going to try to refer this site to my students and their parents to see if they can use it in addition to practicing to fulfill their musical training. I also investigated the site and I feel that it would be a great opportunity for children to release more of their creative and musical potential, since as we know, regular routine practicing can be quite difficult at a young age.