Music & Science: experiments for kids
Music and science go together like peas and carrots! First, because music has all kinds of cognitive advantages, such as enhancing memory and attention span. Second, because music is not only art but also a physics phenomenon that deserves being studied as such. And third, because music and science are great for awakening curiosity in children and adults as well.
So here are a few ideas for great scientific
experiments, simple enough so you can do them at home with your kids. They
provide fun entertainment for a rainy day. And at the same time, these
experiences connect your children with music and motivate them to keep on
learning and investigating on their own. What are you waiting to try them?
Music and science with crystal glasses
Let’s begin with a basic scientific experiment we have all seen on TV or even cartoons: playing different tunes on crystal glasses! It is a very simple experiment to do at home: you only need a bunch of crystal glasses of the same size and water. Fill in each glass with a different amount of liquid, and then simply slide a wet finger through the edge of a glass to make the crystal vibrate, and produce a beautiful sound! Be careful though: young children should be supervised so they can learn to gently manipulate the glass without breaking it. Older children who are already taking music lessons may be thrilled creating their own tunes or even performing some little song they know.
Despite it is something basic for any of us
grownups, your young children will be amazed and delighted on how each glass
sounds with a different pitch depending on the amount of liquid you pour in it.
Guide your child with some questions, such as:
more the liquid, is the pitch higher or lower?
do you think that happens?
happens if one of the glasses has exactly half the amount of liquid than
You can see how food coloring can make this
experiment even more exciting for your children in this video.
Music and plants
Here is a great project for your child’s science fair! It attempts to demonstrate whether music can influence the growth of plants, and in which way. You need three similar plants, which you can purchase at a garden store. One of these plants will be labeled as “classical music”, the second one as “hard rock music”, and the last plant as “no music”. They should be placed in different rooms of the house, but make sure they receive the same amount of light and water every day. Each of the plants should be daily exposed to a different kind of music.
Your child needs to record on a journal how
each plant is doing. Make sure they write down their initial hypothesis so they
can later compare it with the actual result of the experiment.
How does music influence on our performance?
The kind of music you listen to can actually
have an effect on how well your children perform on certain tasks. You can
actually demonstrate it through a bunch of fun, easy experiments! For instance,
to see the different effects music has on memory, you can make your child
memorize a list of words (or countries, or their friends’ birthdays, or the parts
of the flower, or states), while they listen to instrumental music one day, to
rock music the second day, to no music the third day. Which day they could
manage to remember more words from the list? This way, you can use this
experiment to determine the best music to listen to while studying.
Ok, so your child may love hard rock or rap, and it may not be the best music when it comes to doing their homework. However, there are other experiments you can perform that will prove these kinds of music quite useful! How does tempo influence task performances? For this experiment, you should ask your children to perform some household chores, such as washing the dishes, doing their bed or picking up their toys. You need different music of various tempos, and a stop-watch (you can use your cellphone's timer). On different days, take note on the time they take to complete each chore, and afterward, ask your children to compare whether the music’s tempo had any effect on how fast they performed the task. This experiment has two advantages: it teaches music and science, but it also makes household chores fun!
Create your own musical instruments
The best way to know about how musical instruments sound, is building some on your own! A homemade musical instrument made from discard items is a great way to learn about sound and vibration. The best part is you don’t need to spend a lot of money. For example, check out this amazing DIY craft stick piano! Even young children can organize sticks by size, and the eldest sibling can prepare the labels of the different musical notes. Perhaps you could seize the opportunity to explain to your kids how the actual piano is both a string instrument as well as a percussion instrument. Isn’t it interesting?
With an old shoebox or an empty plastic bottle, together with rubber bands of different sizes you can create a homemade “guitar” and allow your kids to discover vibrations and how they produce sounds. Or, with different empty packages, you can put together your own drum set. Of course, you can decorate your homemade instruments with as many colors as possible!
As we can see, music and science are not apart
from each other, like some people tend to think. According to scientist and professional musician John
J. Williamson, the most important thing they have in common is beauty: “in
both [music and science] there is the shared joy of things coming to fruition,
of pieces slotting into place aesthetically (…) The real fundamental reasons
why human beings pursue them seem just out of reach, yet irresistible”.