(Written by Carrie Thompson) Music is an incredibly powerful force in our lives. An exquisite symphony inspires awe. An upbeat rock tune makes us want to get up and dance. A familiar lullaby brings back vivid childhood memories. A good choice of background music makes us cry during an emotional scene in a movie. We experience the power of music daily as adults, so it should be no surprise to us that music is equally powerful for our children. Although, it affects them somewhat differently.
How is music good for my child?
Early childhood development experts don’t always agree on specific uses of music in children’s lives, but they are unanimous on one thing: Music is good for a child’s development. Why?
- Reasoning skills: One study found that preschoolers who were given piano lessons scored higher in reasoning skills than their counterparts who received computer or singing lessons. Learning the relationships between the sounds aided their cognitive development.
- Language skills: Parents who sing to their children are actually helping to prepare their children’s brains for learning language.
- Literacy skills: Many studies have found that music helps young children learn written language.
- Social and emotional skills: Through music, children learn to participate with others and express themselves. Music is a great way to help children become socially responsive – just watch the way your infant looks at you when you start singing to her.
What kind of music should my child listen to?
Most of us have heard of the “Mozart effect” – the notion that playing Mozart for infants can turn them into little prodigies. While the “Mozart effect” has caused many mothers to place headphones over their bellies during pregnancy and has even resulted in the creation of merchandise specifically created to encourage children to listen to Mozart from young ages, the truth of this widely-perpetuated idea is actually somewhat dubious.
While listening to Mozart may certainly be good for your child (why wouldn’t it be?), when selecting music for your child, take his or her age into account. For infants, one of the most effective forms of music is a parent singing to the baby. Your voice and animated, smiling face will most likely capture and hold your baby’s attention better than any other form of music.
For toddlers and preschoolers, music that allows them to participate is great for their development. Here are some types of songs you may choose.
- Building their vocabularies: Choose music that allows for words to be switched out and substituted in. Dr. Pam Schiller, an early childhood consultant, recommends singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” as it is written and then substituting other adjectives such as “brilliant,” “silent,” “gigantic” or “flashing.”
- Teaching rhythm and encourage motion: Choose something upbeat that will easily allow your child to march, clap or sway with the rhythm. Develop motions to help your child associate the words with their meanings. For example, point to your ears when the word “ears” is used. The GiggleBellies have many fun songs for young children that could easily be used to encourage movement.
- Developing memory: Little ones can’t remember long, complicated songs, so choose music that can help them expand their memories gradually. Songs with repetition can be helpful, and songs with motions can help them to remember the accompanying lyrics.
Variety is good for your children. Expose them to different kinds of music at an early age. Watch them learn and grow as the magic of music brings joy and new sensory experiences to their little lives.
About the author: Carrie Thompson is a freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful state of Virginia, near the mountains, where the state of mind is relaxed and family-oriented.