In addition to providing basic care like feeding, bathing and holding their child, parents have a huge responsibility for early childhood development during the first five years of their child’s life.
During this time, a child’s physical and cognitive abilities evolve at an overwhelming rate. Their brains, bodies and abilities grow more rapidly at this time than they have or will at any other point in their lives.
Child development within the first five years of life is critical. During this time, the overall trajectory of their lives is mapped out in various ways – even their overall health and well-being are impacted by development at this stage.
Why Music is Important for Early Childhood Development
Early childhood development takes place throughout a child’s first five years of life. By the age of three, a child’s brain has reached a whopping 85 percent of its adult size and is crisscrossed by connections that provide communication and thought.
One of the most multisensory, physically involving and intense activities that children and their parents or caregivers can engage in together is playing live music. Here’s how:
1. Improves Coordination
The acts of tapping, clapping, bouncing and dancing while making music help develop and boost both fine and large motor skills. From younger children playing simple musical games, singing songs and doing back-and-forth play to older children playing a musical instrument, motor skills will continue to grow.
2. Helps Build Close Relationships
During infancy and toddlerhood, children form some of the most significant relationships of their lives.
When young children have responsive and caring parents, they have a good chance of developing a sense of security as they explore, take risks and make mistakes.
Music can be a catalyst to support these types of intimate exchanges. Music uses rhythm, pitch and lyrics to not only soothe a child but teach them language, build their vocabulary, communication skills and provide an added sense of security.
3. Increases Communication and Imagination
Because the human brain is wired to be sensitive to sound patterns, music can help foster imagination and communication in young children.
During infancy, babies engage in sound-play and babbling that help them develop pathways in the brain that are necessary for speaking and listening.
When babies see and hear people singing in their daily lives, they usually pick up the habit and use sound to explore, understand and make sense of the world around them.
Communicating feelings is one of the most challenging areas of growth for young children. They’re not only learning how to manage and express their feelings but are also trying to learn how to read other people’s expressions and feelings.
Children can use music as an effective way to harness their emotions through games, songs and stories.
Even experience with concepts like verse and chorus, starting and stopping and slowing down or speeding up can motivate young children to direct and modulate their behavior.
4. Enhances Listening Skills
Listening or playing music requires a high level of concentration. Children must listen to the music instructor and specific components of music like pitch, speed and rhythm.
Music provides clear structures that help young children learn routines, rules and how to socialize.
5. Boosts Emotional Development
Music can significantly benefit children who have histories of trauma and provide an intersection where immigration and education meet, creating a sense of community and belonging.
Music helps children establish empathy towards others and share the beliefs and values of their communities through songs and stories.
Music is also a carrier of excitement and delight. The positive emotions that music conveys are among the most vital resources for the human mind.
Music can lift moods, attract others, ward off sadness and even boost health through positivity. Music and the arts play a powerful role in promoting emotional development and healing the mind and body.
Music and Milestones
Now that you know all the ways in which music can help children develop their motor skills and cognitive functions, it’s essential to understand the basic musical milestones for children throughout their first five years of life.
In the first few months of life, infants spend most of their time absorbing the sounds surrounding them.
During this time, it’s important to expose them to a variety of musical sounds. Before a baby is one year old, you should observe the following musical milestones:
- Smiling while listening to music
- Making eye contact when being sung to or hearing music
- Rocking the body and/or moving arms and legs in response to the rhythm of the music
- Babbling in short bursts at any pitch in response to music
- Showing interest/engaging with shaker-type instruments
Around one year of age, children become much more physically engaged with music than they could have been before one year.
Some of the musical milestones you should observe in your child around this age include:
- Adjusting pitch up and down, but not matching notes
- Changing movement from fast to slow in response to the tempo of the music
- Playing with musical props like shakers, bells and rhythm sticks for extended periods
- Vocalizing to phrases with lyrics by babbling
- Moving the body in response to rhythmic sounds
Between the ages of 2-3 years, most children will be able to create music without recorded or live support.
The songs they sing and play will sound more accurate than ever before. You should notice the following musical milestones in children between the ages of 2-3 years:
- Singing short songs, with short phrases being in tune but the remaining notes out of tune
- Being able to distinguish between different instruments and voices
- Using body movements to demonstrate rhythm, sometimes in tempo to the music
- Beginning to play with a wider variety of instruments, sometimes with the ability to play them in beat with the music
- Singing short phrases of lyrics up to entire songs correctly, with increasing ease and enjoyment
By the time your child is 4-5 years old, they typically can move in time and sing in tune with the music.
You may observe your 4-to-5 year-old child meeting the following musical milestones:
- Singing phrases of or sometimes an entire song on an accurate pitch
- Consistently, or at least occasionally, matching the beat of the music
- Memorizing lengthy songs with complex lyrics
- Identifying common instruments by sight and sound
- Playing a wide range of musical instruments with accuracy, sometimes occasional and sometimes consistent
- Indicating when notes are performed incorrectly when hearing familiar phrases or songs
Musical Activities for Young Children
Whether you have an infant or toddler at home, it’s never too early or too late to get kids involved in making music. Here are some great musical activities for kids aged 0-5 years old if you need some inspiration.
1. Sing Songs
From the time your baby is born, you should sing songs and musical rhymes as often as you can to create a relaxed, happy and harmonious atmosphere.
The best part of singing to your baby throughout the day is that they’ll never be a harsh critic. They’re notoriously unfussy about your tone.
In fact, even if you’re off-key, singing songs together is one of the best ways you and your child can interact.
2. Attend a Shared Music Group
When your child is between 9 months and one year of age, you can look for local shared music groups to attend together.
Most towns and cities hold music classes and activities at local libraries. You can also look for private institutions and businesses that have music groups for children and parents.
3. Collect Musical Instruments
You can start collecting musical instruments anytime and hold onto them to share with your child and give as gifts as your child grows and reaches new musical milestones.
Use percussion instruments, chime bars, xylophones and other fun instruments to make music at home with your child and let them practice and explore anytime.
Good-quality musical instruments will last for years.
4. Play Recorded Music
Play a variety of recorded music from different genres and cultures to help them build creativity and create a calm atmosphere at home.
Playing recorded music with lyrics is a good way to sing to your baby if you don’t like to sing unaccompanied by music.
It’s also incredibly beneficial to explore different types of instrumental and classical music.
Play and Sing Lullabies Before Bed
Whether you play recorded lullabies or sing them to your child, ending the day on a musical note with soothing lullabies creates a calm and relaxed atmosphere where your child can feel comfortable falling asleep.
Related: Club lullabies with bedtime stories for kids to make your child’s bedtime ritual enjoyable and calming.
Over to you…
Music has such a positive impact on early child development that no child should miss out on.
The more you can expose your child to music and get them involved in playing music, the better you’ll be helping their bodies and minds grow in important ways.
A life-long dancer and advocate for the arts, Molly Stroud is passionate about sharing ways youth activity center owners can inspire, motivate, and educate the next generation of artists and athletes.
She is a team member of Jackrabbit that is involved in development of cloud-based class management software to aid school owners in managing their gamut of works ranging from marketing, scheduling to time and money management.