Most little kids love music for the obvious reasons: They can bop their head, dance without fear of being judged, and sing along as loudly as they want. But music has some real benefits in early childhood development; it can help young children hone their fine motor and language skills, boost self-confidence, and much more.
Read on to learn about the developmental benefits of music and get inspired to bring more rhythm and song right into your home.
Why Music is Important for Child Development
Of the many benefits of music in early childhood education, the most important — by far — is its direct effect on brain development.
In 2016, scientists at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute discovered a link between music in early childhood and accelerated brain development. The researchers found that children who are exposed to music early on are more likely to have better reading and communication skills and language acquisition.
What’s more, the NAMM Foundation (National Association of Music Merchants Foundation) has found that children who play instruments are more likely to be better at math; they tend to earn higher grades in their math classes and on standardized tests.
Benefits of Music for Children
The benefits of music in early child development are multifold. By encouraging learning through music, parents can help children:
1. Improve fine and large motor skills
Music helps children of all ages improve their fine and gross motor skills. When kids hear music, they can’t help themselves from dancing and singing along. These seemingly simple activities are the building blocks, of sorts, for mobility skills like bending and jumping.
Dancing to the rhythm also helps increase children’s muscle development. In short: Music can have a lasting effect on mobility and strength.
2. Build close relationships
There’s a reason why every great romantic comedy includes a concert or music scene: Music helps people bond. Singing, dancing, and rhyming are fun, easy, engaging activities that build improve communication and responsiveness.
Engaging in musical activities early on can help cement the lifetime bonds between parents and children, even taking a few minutes every day to dance and sing with your child can make for lasting memories.
3. Develop language skills
Song lyrics are rooted in language — and often beautiful and interesting language, at that. Rhythms and melodies help kids memorize phrases, understand rhyming patterns, and grasp context. Music teaches children about plants, animals, events — even people and relationships.
Nursery rhymes, which have been shown to improve storytelling skills, are also a key part of early childhood education. By teaching children how to participate in nursery rhymes, parents can open new lines of communication and promote creativity.
4. Improve the management of emotions
We all know how music can affect emotions — the sad songs that make us cry, the upbeat songs that put a pep in our step. Many parents play music to calm infants and toddlers before bedtime, but music can, and should, be deployed oppositely: as a mood-booster.
Teaching children to use music to manage their emotions is an important part of early childhood development. Not only will kids learn to express themselves, but they will also learn to reach for music — and take comfort in it — during more difficult times.
Certain songs are shoo-ins for expressing emotions and vocalizing feelings; for example, “If you’re happy and you know it” conveys — well, the obvious. Google around for songs that help children express just the right emotion at just the right time.
5. Build self-confidence and self-esteem
Music is also a natural self-esteem-booster. By engaging in musical activities — singing, dancing, clapping, drumming — young children learn to use their own voices and take up lots of physical space.
For children on the Autism spectrum, music therapy is crucial for early childhood development. Where traditional teaching methods might not prevail, music picks up the slack, often serving as an excellent way to communicate with children of varying abilities. Playing instruments and singing can help children of all needs develop motor skills, communicate, and build confidence.
6. Encourage teamwork
Music encourages communication and cooperation with other children. When kids sing or dance together, they naturally begin to work together to achieve a shared goal.
Exercises that incorporate teamwork — taking turns singing lines, practicing rounds, harmonizing — are always great, as are bands comprised of small groups of friends who play instruments.
Children and Music: Musical Activities for Your Child
Here are six easy musical activities to try at home:
Gather various kitchen items like pots, pans, and wooden spoons, then have at it. If you’re worried about the noise — or the neighbors — opt for softer materials like tissue boxes and toilet paper rolls.
Musical dress up
Let your child pick a song, then use it to anchor a round of thematically appropriate dress-up: Pirate songs get eye patches, princess songs get wands and tiaras, and so on.
Gather all of your accessories into the center of the room, then turn on the music and dance around. When the music stops, grab a piece of clothing and put it on. By the end of the song, everyone will look ridiculous — but it’s all in the name of a little fun.
Moving with music
Have an impromptu dance party: Put on some tunes and encourage your child to groove — it’s a great way to build motor skills and spark creativity. Perhaps you and your child can even invent some righteous new moves (photos or it didn’t happen, of course).
Paper plate tambourines
- Decorate the undersides of two paper plates.
- Fill the surface of the plate with a single layer of dried pasta or dried beans.
- Use a stapler to attach the second paper atop of the first plate, so that the decorations face out — and voila: DIY tambourine.
Tired of listening to “The Wheels on the Bus” for the zillionth time? Vary up the Spotify playlist with different musical genres, including:
- World music
- Steel drum music
- Classical music
- Folk songs
Start with instrumental music and work up to songs with lyrics. Introduce simple nursery rhymes to encourage speech development, then progress to more complicated phrases and concepts.
Making music: your child’s first instrument
Let your child experiment with these beginner-friendly and age-appropriate instruments:
- Bongo drum
- Maraca or shaker
- Keyboard piano
Each of these can be leveled up; if you’d like to eventually teach your child how to play guitar, start with the ukulele. Classical-music fans can consider starting with a keyboard or xylophone.
Music in Early Childhood Education: Vivvi’s Learning Model
At Vivvi, we use an inquiry-based learning model that’s geared around children’s interests. Inquiry-based learning helps in the beginning stages of early childhood education and as kids continue to grow.
Music plays a big role in day-to-day life at Vivvi. Here’s a sampling of what we offer:
- Musical Expression: Children learn nursery rhymes and songs like “Rock-A-Bye” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” This is a great way of developing musical expression and literacy skills.
- Moving to Music: We dance and use rhythm to encourage the development of fine and gross motor skills.
- Playing with Instruments: Children use shakers, maracas, and other handheld instruments to create music. In doing so, they improve their motor skills and allow their imagination and creativity to run wild.
Curious to know more? Read all about music education activities at our early learning centers.