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Karen Sherr, founder of UK-based children’s music and singing franchise Musical Minis has today welcomed a report that says children who take part in activities such as singing nursery rhymes, are likely to be happier, with better developed social, motor and speech skills, than their TV watching counterparts.

The report entitled ‘Happiness and Development in Very Young Children’ by Oxford University and the Open University, which is being presented today, says that toddlers who spend a lot of time watching TV or looking at picture books are less likely to be happy than those who take part in activities.  Television was actually found to have a negative effect on a child’s happiness.

Economics experts analysed data on more than 800 two and three year olds, where their mothers were asked about the youngsters’ happiness and the development of their speech, movement and social skills and what activities they had done in the preceding two weeks. They found that those who took part in ‘active play’ developed better skills and were more content; for example, painting or arts and crafts led to improved motor skills, while reading, telling stories and singing boosted their speech.

Children who often took part in active pursuits with their parents were also happier.

Dr Laurence Roope, of the Health Economics Research Centre at Oxford University said,

‘Of course parents can’t engage their young children in these activities every hour of the day, but it is encouraging that time spent reading books to them, painting or joining in with a nursery rhyme could help their development.’

Interestingly, co-author of the report Paul Annand, professor of economics at the Open University said,

‘An economic study of very young children is relatively novel, but if our findings are replicated in other research, they could have significant implications for parenting education.  It could, for example, allow us to reassess the role of arts in the development of skills and human potential.’

Karen says,

‘As a qualified child psychologist I have always known that singing was good for a child’s development; it is after all the basis of the Musical Minis programme I developed nearly 25 years ago, plus my franchisees and I see first-hand the improvements in the social skills, speech and co-ordination of the children who attend our classes every week, so we know the findings of the report are right, but it’s still nice to have further confirmation from such a large study.’

She continues,

‘Mums and dads who attend Musical Minis are always telling us how much their child’s development has improved since coming to our classes and most importantly, how much they enjoy the special time together and we would welcome moves, even at government level, to a more formal recognition of the importance of singing and music in children’s development in the UK.’

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