People often assume rhythmic ability is something you are born with, but research tells us otherwise. Like so many areas of development, sense of rhythm is the outcome of both genetics and environment.
So, how do we nurture rhythmic development? Through movement! The more ways we are comfortable moving our bodies, the more rhythms we are able to understand and easily perform. Here are a few suggestions for how to help develop your child’s sense of rhythm:
- Tempo (Infants): Singing your favorite song while gently bouncing your infant to the beat is more than just musical fun. Moving babies in tempo helps develop their rhythm perception.
- Role Model (Toddlers/Preschool): Many adults are shy about moving their bodies to music, but it’s imperative we show our children how the music moves us. When a young child sees you swaying, tapping or dancing in any way, he or she will be encouraged to do the same, often with even greater enthusiasm and energy. Setting the example is key to establishing your child’s habit of moving to music and building his rhythm skills.
- Props (Toddlers/Preschool): Put a shaker or drum in your child’s hand, get the same instrument for yourself, turn on some music and have fun jamming along with the song. Not only does the sound of the instrument help to teach rhythm, but the movement involved in playing it helps, too. Scarves are another great movement prop option!
- Variety (Toddlers/Preschool): If you repeatedly listen to one style of music, chances are you have one set of movements that go with that music. Because our goal is for children to be comfortable with many different rhythms, we need to expose them to a wide variety of movements. Challenge yourself to expand your listening habits and remember – there’s no right way to move to music. Use your imagination, have fun and look to your child for movement ideas.
- Sample Music: In this recording from The Music Class, the traditional song “The Bridge at Avignon” was adapted to include dancing, twirling, jumping and running. Try doing these activities while singing along; then, sing the song without the recording and come up with different movements. Be sure to praise and try any suggestion your child makes, regardless of how silly it may seem!
Remember, it’s important to help your child experience a full range of movement types – with each movement, they internalize and become more comfortable with a different type of rhythmic feel. So put on some music and get moving with your child.