The Role Music Plays in Child Development

December 01, 2015

Given technology today, you can find music just about anywhere. But music is more than just fun and entertaining; music can calm the savage beast, music can tug at the emotions, and music can help the body and mind work together.

music and dancingMusic helps develop intellect, social skills, emotional maturity, motor skills, and language. Music helps young children learn sounds and the meaning of words. Music, in the form of dancing, helps build motor skills. It gives children a creative outlet to express themselves. It even helps develop memory skills.

Bottom line, music in some form plays a crucial role in a child’s development.

Music in an Early Childhood Setting

In my work at the preschool level, music is commonly used in transitional periods, which is the time when one activity ends and the next begins. These times can be quite chaotic; music playing in the background helps keep the children fully engaged.

Transitional Periods

circle timeMusic can be instructional, telling the children where they are going in their day or that it is time to do a particular activity. The songs tell them what they need to do. For instance, when we go to circle, we use “hello” songs. At clean-up time, we use other songs that tell them just that, that it is clean-up time.

When we need to calm things down, music relaxes. For instance, playing classical music helps to slow their movements down. Quiet, background music can be very soothing.

Stimulating Activities

On the other hand, music can stimulate movement, helping children develop their motor skills. Sometimes I hear, “I’m not dancing.” I let the child know that its okay, he or she doesn’t have to dance. But music can be infectious to the young; before you know it, you see little hands wiggling. The child sees his or her friends dancing and that gets him or her moving.

Learning Activities

Music can help introduce children to a new academic skill.  As a fun activity, I will read a story and when the kiddos hear me say a sight word, they have to shake the musical instrument he or she has.  Sight words are high frequency words that young children learn to visually memorize.  By listening for the word in a story, they are also learning to use auditory skills.

When the children are working on a table top activity, I often play music in the background.  When learning letter sounds, and math skills, they might hear an alphabet or counting song, which helps to reinforce and work in a subliminal way.  The children sing along with the song without knowing they are learning.

Music and ArtMusic helps children identify different sounds, differentiating between the higher sounds or the really low. It could be a child’s first exposure to many different sounds they aren’t familiar with.

One of my co-workers does a unit on music and art. She tells the children to draw a picture of whatever they want.  She then plays different genres of music while they work and observes how this impacts the pictures they are drawing.  After they finish, the class talks about their creations and what impact the music had on their work.

Music Helps Develop Coordination

Music and clappingMusic helps with cognitive development, rhythm, and developing coordination. Children sway and bounce to the music. They clap, tap or dance to the music’s rhythm. In this process they are developing their motor and coordination skills, which is beneficial to early writing, and reading skills.

Musical Instruments in the Park and School Playground

Having musical instruments in the park or school playground promotes social interaction. Watch how children communicate among themselves as they line up to play some chimes or xylophone types of instruments.

These instruments provide different sounds so kids talk about what they like or don’t like.  Auditory discrimination.

Some children might bang on the instruments with all their might to create a loud sound while others prefer a softer sound, therefore using a gentler force. For some, it might be the first time they have played an instrument, giving them the chance to experiment in a freer manner.

Freenotes drum set

Freenotes Tuned Drum Set

Using these musical instruments kids can create their own little tunes, which promotes creativity.

Making music together, children learn to work as a team; each contributes in his or her own way. Children learn cooperation, sharing, compromise, creativity and even concentration. Research suggests that informal musical activities influence auditory discrimination and attention maturation of preschool and school aged children.

Whether listening to it for pure pleasure or to gain new language or social skills, music enriches the lives of children of any age, preparing children as they start school and progress, make new friends, and face new challenges.

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Jami Murdock Jami Murdock

Jami has been an early childhood educator for 25 years. She operated an “in home” daycare center for 13 years and has been teaching preschool for the past 12 years. She has experience working with children on the autism spectrum and sensory processing dysfunction. Jami presents on “How Important are Playground Activities to a Child’s Success in the Classroom.” Her passion is her family and her work with children.

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