Early Childhood Benefits
Babies, toddlers and preschoolers love music and singing. Music is an important part of the life of young children. They naturally interact, move, sway, dance, and sing with incredible joy. Music enhances a child’s growth and development and affects the quality of their lives. Early childhood music provides a foundation for future music learning and understanding. Music is a wonderful way to capture a young child’s attention, foster creativity, and support cognitive, social, verbal, physical and emotional development. It can be said that music benefits the whole child.
“Music….can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” —Leonard Bernstein
Why Music and Movement are Vital for Children
Children are naturally interested in music, and music is naturally good for children. Why is music so attractive to children, and why is music so well suited to children?
- Music is a language, and children are oriented toward learning language.
- Music evokes movement, and children delight in and require movement for their development and growth.
- Music engages the brain while stimulating neural pathways associated with such higher forms of intelligence as abstract thinking, empathy, and mathematics.
- Music’s melodic and rhythmic patterns provide exercise for the brain and help develop memory. Who among us learned the ABC’s without the ABC song?
- Music is an aural art and young children are aural learners. Since ears are fully mature before birth, infants begin learning from the sounds of their environment before birth.
- Music is perfectly designed for training children’s listening skills. Good listening skills and school achievement go hand in hand.
- Developmentally appropriate music activities involve the whole child-the child’s desire for language, the body’s urge to move, the brain’s attention to patterns, the ear’s lead in initiating communication, the voice’s response to sounds, as well as the eye-hand coordination associated with playing musical instruments.
- Music is a creative experience which involves expression of feelings. Children often do not have the words to express themselves and need positive ways to release their emotions.
- Music transmits culture and is an avenue by which beloved songs, rhymes, and dances can be passed down from one generation to another.
- Music is a social activity which involves family and community participation. Children love to sing and dance at home, school, and at church.
As published in Early Childhood Connections.
“The only thing better thank singing is more singing.” – Ella Fitzgerald
Children’s Music and Social Learning
For toddlers and preschoolers, music making can be a dynamic social learning experience. Making music together, children learn to work as a team while they each contribute to the song in their own way. At the same time, music helps children learn that together they can make something larger than the sum of its parts.
More benefits of music for children include learning cooperation, sharing, compromise, creativity, and concentration – skills that become invaluable as they enter school, face new challenges, and begin to form new friendships and develop social skills.
Developmental Benefits of Music
Children of all ages express themselves through music. Playing music for infants proves that, even at an early age, children sway, bounce, or move their hands in response to music they hear. Many preschoolers make up songs and, with no self-consciousness, sing to themselves as they play. Kids in elementary school learn to sing together as a group and possibly learn to play a musical instrument. Older children dance to the music of their favorite rock bands and use music to form friendships and share feelings.
Infants and Music. Infants recognize the melody of a song long before they understand the words. They often try to mimic sounds and start moving to the music as soon as they are physically able. Quiet, background music can be soothing for infants, especially at sleep time. Loud background music may overstimulate an infant by raising the noise level of the room. Sing simple, short songs to infants in a high, soft voice. Try making up one or two lines about bathing, dressing, or eating to sing to them while you do these activities. Find musical learning activities for infants.
Toddlers and Music. Toddlers love to dance and move to music. The key to toddler music is the repetition of songs which encourages the use of words and memorization. Silly songs make them laugh. Try singing a familiar song and inserting a silly word in the place of the correct word, like “Mary had a little spider” instead of lamb. Let them reproduce rhythms by clapping or tapping objects.
Preschoolers and Music. Preschoolers enjoy singing just to be singing. They aren’t self-conscious about their ability and most are eager to let their voices roar. They like kids’ songs that repeat words and melodies, rhythms with a definite beat, and words that ask them to do things. Preschool children enjoy nursery rhymes and songs about familiar things like toys, animals, play activities, and people. They also like finger plays and nonsense rhymes with or without musical accompaniment.
School-Age Children and Music. Most school-age children are intrigued by songs that involve counting, spelling, or remembering a sequence of events. Songs and musical activities with other school subjects also are effective during this child developmental stage. School-age children begin expressing their likes and dislikes of different types of music. They may express an interest in taking musical lessons.
“If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing” — J.M. Barrie
Fun ideas to get you and your child moving and enjoying music
1. Shaker eggs and rhythm sticks are wonderful steady beat manipulatives. Put on some music and shake and tap away.
2. Scarves provide a magical and colorful movement tool. Play peek a boo or toss your scarf in the air and say and inflected “whee” upon it’s descent. Play beautiful music and dance with arms extended, reaching high and low, circling round and round, or mirror each other.
3. Move like animals, birds, ocean creatures, farm animals, zoo animals, safari animals, while making the animal sounds — it’s all so fun! Add St. Saens Carnival of the Animals recordings to enhance creative imagination and movement.
4. Slowly move to classical music with other props, such as streamers or ribbons, cut to an appropriate size.
5. Dance to a variety of music — classical, blues, multi-cultural, folk music among others.
6. Read children’s books that demonstrate movement, such as Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boyton, Llama Llama hoppity-hop by Anna Dewdney, and Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes: And other action Rhymes by Zita Newcome.
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” —Victor Hugo