As tired mums and dads, we all know music can touch our souls. For toddlers, a little exposure to melody, sing-songs and rhythm can also provide immense learning opportunities that help support their development into early childhood. Amberley Bremner, a music therapist, says one of the primary reasons to play music at home is simply because children love it. Yet, behind the scenes, there are at least five other compelling reasons to get musical around your toddlers.
- Informal music-making can improve literacy and numeracy
Children come into the world hardwired to decode sounds and words. Exposure to music assists with this instinctual process and enhances those natural abilities. Amberley says: “Our kids love it, they love music, they are engaged with music and through this motivation to engage with music, they are motivated to learn through music.” By singing simple nursery rhymes, young children start to recognise and practise patterns through repetition.
Research shows that music actually aids memory, through using rhythm. Counting songs such as Five Little Monkeys or One, Two, Buckle My Shoe tap into rhythm, repetition and numeracy. These songs help children anticipate what’s coming next; they also help children learn how to put those patterns into sequence. It’s these early sequencing skills that are the stepping stones to literacy and numeracy.
- Singing helps increase toddlers’ vocabulary.
Storytelling is a big part of music. Toddlers may not initially understand the words they are singing but an understanding grows through storytelling in the song. Consider the ABC song – many toddlers think that ‘l-m-n-o-p’ is a word, “elemenopee’. Initially, your child will learn the pattern but as they grow and develop, they begin to understand that each letter is a separate entity.
To further engage toddlers with music in a way that can aid their vocabulary, sing their favourite nursery rhymes and insert their name into the song, or change one word within the nursery rhyme to pique further interest. Allow your child to change words of the song too to keep them engaged and learning.
- Music is a mood lifter and can help regulate emotion.
Most parents find music can help calm their child or prepares them for sleep with a bedtime lullaby. Music can also be used to indicate play time, to increase energy and add a sense of fun. Children recognise that upbeat music such as The Wiggles signifies play, and adults can use specific songs to enhance positive feelings around daily tasks. Try playing the Pack Up song just before dinner, or Let’s Get Dressed in the morning, and sleepy time songs such as Rock-a-bye Baby or Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star at bed time.
- Music helps build rhythm and co-ordination.
Musical play is the key to building co-ordination. Our bodies have a natural inclination to move to music and musical play feeds into this inclination to move. Giving a child a toy drum and drum stick will aid fine motor skills and gross motor skills as it works on their clutch grip and the hand-eye co-ordination required to hit the drum with the stick. Musical statues improves balance and concentration; hopping to music improves overall strength and balance.
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What Sue says:
Music is a great fun way to introduce young children to movement and song. They learn as they are playing - young children are often kinaesthetic learners which means they need to touch or move to retain information.
Most toddlers can sing the alphabet and count to ten long before they understand the more complicated concepts of the sounds the letters make and the value of numbers simply by singing the songs.
Music is also a great vehicle for active movement with toddlers. It helps get them moving and improves their spatial awareness. There are a number of programmes available from government and sports organisations advocating active movement for infants and toddlers, incorporating music. Singing/hand action games are great and most parents already do these – I certainly did with my boys. Songs such as Head, shoulders, knees and toes, Incy, Wincy Spider and Round and Round the garden with the accompanying actions are really good for your little one’s co-ordination.
As a teacher, I used music and movement often with my youngest learners. Action songs help to improve balance, timing, co-ordination and gross motor skills – all while having fun. As a mum with two active boys, I know my kids loved music for the social interaction and fun of dancing with their friends each week at music group.Find out more
- It will aid the development of social skills and attention span.
Group music sessions in particular are useful for developing social skills. The act of making music together may well be the first experience a child has of team work. Being part of something gives children an increased sense of self-worth, and an understanding that working with others can produce something bigger than working alone. A group session also teaches respect, co-operation, listening skills, and fine tunes attention span. This type of music play doesn’t have to be done in an organised music group – these skills and benefits can still be experienced at home through parent and sibling involvement.
What parents can do.
Amberley says bringing music into your child’s everyday life doesn’t have to involve a huge time commitment, or financial outlay for organised classes. Children are tuned into their parents’ rhythm – particularly their mother’s, as hers is the first voice they come to know, her heartbeat is the first rhythm they learn. So, while many parents may feel hesitant about hitting the high notes, or their ability to play an instrument, Amberley says every child believes their mums and dads have the vocal range of a songbird, and the musical talent of Mozart.
There is an innate connection between children and their mother’s voice and this is what motivates a child to engage with the music she is making. Parenting is naturally musically-based; from day one, we use rhythmic patting and shushing to calm babies and later on, we frequently alter the tone and rhythm of our voice when communicating with children. These emotional connections to sound are made early in life and toddlers benefit enormously from being exposed to a wider range of music.
Musical activities don’t have to be highly structured; just put on a CD or playlist of your child’s favourite songs and sing along together, or give them a pot and wooden spoon to bang while you are busy with household jobs. Using music in the home will reap ongoing emotional, physical and intellectual benefits, for both parents and children alike.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your child branch out and achieve something new for the first time. You can support this progress, not only by extending your child through various activities, but also by ensuring he/she is receiving a nutritious, balanced diet to support this learning and development. Aptamil Toddler can help your child take on everything their future holds by helping lay the foundations so they can take one giant leap after another, when consumed as part of a healthy varied diet. Our AptaNutrition Advisory team is available to answer any questions you may have and can be contacted on 1800 438 500 or at http://www.aptanutrition.