Musical Milestones for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

Toddler plays with a green guitar as part of his early musical development.

Musical Milestones for Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers

Music is a magical component of early childhood development. Music builds brain connections that help children develop skills in language, math, emotion regulation and social awareness. That’s why music is a cornerstone of our Balanced Learning® curriculum, and why it’s helpful for families to enjoy music together at home, too.

As you sing, dance and introduce your young child to different types of music, here are common milestones you may note in their development. It may not seem like much, but little things such as smiling in response to music are signs that your little one is learning!

Infants are busy absorbing the sounds around them in the first few months of life. Regular exposure to a variety of musical sounds supports their brain development. You may observe your infant:

  • Making eye contact when they hear music or when someone sings to them
  • Moving their arms and legs or rocking their body in response to rhythmic sounds
  • Smiling in response to music
  • Engaging with shaker-type instruments for short amounts of time
  • Babbling in response to music

1-year-olds are much more engaged with music than infants. You may observe your child reacting in new ways by:

  • Adjusting their pitch up and down, not necessarily matching the actual notes
  • Changing movement in response to the tempo of music, fast or slow
  • Moving their body in response to rhythmic sounds
  • Playing with bells, egg shakers, rhythm sticks and other props for an extended time, but usually not in sync with the music unless it is by chance
  • Vocalizing, from short babbles to phrases with lyrics

2- and 3-year-olds will begin to create music with some accuracy without live or recorded musical support. You may observe your toddler exhibiting new behaviors such as:

  • Singing short phrases of a song in tune, with the remaining notes not in tune
  • Distinguishing between different voices and instruments
  • Demonstrating rhythm with body movements that might be in tempo with the music
  • Enjoying marching, walking, dancing, jumping, running, twirling, skipping, tiptoeing, finger plays and other physical activity while listening to and creating music
  • Enjoying playing a wide range of rhythm instruments that will sometimes be in tempo with the music
  • Singing lyrics with increasing ease and enjoyment, and singing everything from short phrases up to entire songs with the correct lyrics

4- and 5-year-olds start to sing in tune and move in time to music. You may notice your child doing the following:

  • Singing phrases or an entire song with accurate pitch
  • Matching the beat of music occasionally to consistently
  • Memorizing lengthy and complex lyrics
  • Indicating when notes are performed correctly or incorrectly when listening to familiar songs or phrases
  • Playing a wide range of rhythm instruments with occasional to consistent rhythmic accuracy
  • Identifying common instruments by sight or sound

Looking for music your child will love to sing, dance and clap along to? Check out our Harmony & Heart™ music on your favorite streaming or music download service to hear the songs Primrose students learn in school.

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