Children and Music: Early Exposure Is Good for Young Brains — and It’s Fun, Too

If you’ve ever handed a toddler a wooden spoon and an overturned pot, you know that children are natural — and noisy — musicians. But making music isn’t just fun and entertaining for little ones. When we provide musical experiences to early learners, we help their brains grow.

“For young children, music is a calming mechanism, a memory device and a creative channel,” says Dr. Gloria Julius, vice president of education and professional development for Primrose Schools.

That’s why every child at Primrose, from infants to kindergartners, participates in our music curriculum, which teaches children to appreciate music and nurtures brain development.

Here are three ways you can get in on the fun of music learning at home — no musical ability required — and how doing so helps your children’s development.

Language Skills

Get in on the fun: Choose a song your child knows well and make a game of singing it in different ways. So you might say, “Let’s sing the alphabet song — but in slow motion!” And then try it in double time, or use a whisper or a silly voice. Or you could sing “Wheels on the Bus” and clap three times when you say the action of each new verse (such as “round and round”). The “rules” are up to you, and your child will have fun making some up, too, while also learning to pay attention to language and patterns.

How it helps children develop: Research has long shown that learning to distinguish sounds in music helps children discriminate sounds of language. Music instruction has been shown to improve verbal memory, which is the key to reading comprehension.

“In general, children who have music training tend to have significantly better verbal learning and retention abilities,” Dr. Julius says.

When students listen to and sing words set to music, they develop an ear for rhythms and patterns, which translates to recognizing the rhythm and pattern of sounds in words, phrases and sentences. They also hone their active listening skills, learning when to speed up, slow down, start and stop.

Creativity

Get in on the fun: Make different kinds of “shakers” and see how the sounds are different. How do pennies inside a plastic food container sound compared with oats? Then put on a favorite song and shake along.

How it helps children develop: Music gives children opportunities to express themselves in new ways. Instruments just beg to be played with, facilitating exploration, experimentation and multisensory investigation of form and function.

At Primrose, teachers encourage creativity by asking open-ended questions such as “What is another way that we can move to the music?” and “What different sounds can this instrument make?”

Self-Confidence

Get in on the fun: Make up a dance together. Put on music and have your child choreograph a simple step first, then you do the next one. Slowly put the moves together until you’re dancing in tandem.

How it helps children develop: Self-confidence is tied directly to exploring, creating and expressing individuality where there are no right or wrong answers. When their creativity is encouraged and celebrated by adults, children are more content and feel pride in themselves. This develops trust between adults and children; with trust, quiet children will come out of their shells and cautious children may begin to take risks and try new things.

When we add movement to the music, we see even greater effects. Songs, poems and rhymes that have accompanying movements to emphasize the word meanings help children learn and remember new words, which provides a sense of accomplishment.

“Infuse music into your child’s daily routine, and I promise you’ll be thrilled with the impact — now and, even more importantly, in the future,” Dr. Julius says.

Even better? Children don’t care if you sing on key.

For more on how to nurture the budding musician in your life, check out:

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