Article Written by Guest Author – Crystal Casey
Music for early child development and education is the intentional integration of music into the learning and development of young children. Children engage with music through various activities such as singing, playing instruments, active listening, dancing and moving to music, and exploring the different elements of music and creativity through sound. There are many benefits for children who learn music early in life, and music education is not only about training future musicians, but also encouraging creativity and exploration in a stimulating environment where they can learn and grow through music.
What is the Importance of Music in Early Childhood Education?
Music is an important component of a well-rounded education for children. Music education stimulates the mind and the brain, accelerating creativity, compassion, social and emotional intelligence, and confidence. It even aids in the young mind’s ability to learn other subjects. Here are some excellent reasons to introduce music education to young children:
- Cognitive Development – Music and brain development in early childhood is a widely studied topic, as it has been found to engage multiple areas of the brain, enhancing cognitive skills such as memory, attention, and problem solving. Children exposed to music from an early age will often exhibit above average academic performance, particularly in language and math.
- Emotional and Social Development – As music is an art of expression, it helps children express themselves in a healthy way and can be a powerful tool for self-regulation. Participating in music activities as a group of peers promotes social bonding, cooperation, and empathy.
- Cultural Awareness – Exposure to music of varying cultures and traditions fosters an appreciation for diversity and encourages respect for different perspectives and experiences.
- Motor Skills – Participating in musical activities that involve movement, such as dancing or playing instruments aids in the development of gross and fine motor skills. Incorporating rhythm kinesthetically helps children refine their coordination, spatial awareness, and sense of timing. These skills last a lifetime and will easily transpose to non-musical activities later in life such as playing sports, crafting and creation, and operating tools, from paintbrushes to power drills.
- Language and Literacy Skills – Music helps children develop phonological awareness, vocabulary, and overall communication skills, laying the foundation for reading and writing.
- Confidence and Self-Esteem – Experiencing success in the creation and performance of music is a wonderful confidence booster. Children gain a sense of achievement and develop a positive self-identity through musical expression.
What Qualifies as an Early Start to Music?
While there are specialized toddler music classes that are led by a trained instructor, music’s effect on childhood development often starts in the home. There are several ways infants and toddlers can engage in activities or with musical toys that could be considered a preparatory music education.
One of the most valuable musical introductions for young children is through interactive experiences with their parents or caregivers, and it can be as simple as listening to music together and naming the instruments you hear with your child. Singing together is another easy and effective way to introduce music to children. Nursery rhymes, children’s songs, and simple melodies provide a foundation for understanding pitch, rhythm, and language.
Storybooks that include musical elements, such as sound buttons or accompanying CDs, can be a fun way to introduce music to children. These books often have songs or melodies integrated into the story, allowing children to interact with the music while reading or being read to. Music apps and digital tools that feature interactive games, virtual instruments, and sing-along activities are another fun way for parents and children to explore music together.
Combining music with movement activities can be an enjoyable way to familiarize young children with music. Activities like dancing, marching, clapping, and playing simple movement-based games to music help develop a sense of rhythm, coordination, and body awareness.
There are many age-appropriate musical instruments for young children such as maracas, tambourines and other small percussion instruments, xylophones, bells, and small keyboards, as well as toy guitars and flutes. These instruments allow children to explore different sounds and experiment with rhythm, which in turn will help to develop both an appreciation for sound and their hand-eye coordination.
Can You Play Too Much Music for Your Child?
Everything in life is about balance, and the same goes for music. It’s important to watch your child for emotional cues while exposing them to new sounds and activities. Every child is different, and some are more prone to sensory overload than others.
Moreover, consider the type of music a young child would benefit from. As teens and adults we may enjoy heavy metal or hardcore hip hop, but these are not appropriate genres for babies and young children. It’s best to start with age-appropriate music that is soothing and uplifting, such as music designed specifically for kids, classical music like Mozart, and world music with chilled-out, softer beats.
Consider the volume at which the music is played and make sure no one is holding their ears or displaying signs of discomfort. Remember that quiet time and silence are also beneficial, and there should be plenty of this as well in a child’s daily routine. As long as a common sense approach is taken, music should remain an enjoyable aspect of childhood development with very little to worry about.
What Age Can You Introduce Music to Children?
It is never too early to introduce children to music! In fact, babies arrive with an innate sensitivity to music and can respond to rhythm and melody even before they are born. By 16-18 weeks in utero, the little one will hear its first sounds, and many mothers-to-be opt to play soothing classical music and lullabies for their developing infant during the later stages of pregnancy. Studies have shown that prenatal music exposure does indeed induce positive long-term neural effects, and there are even music playing devices designed for mother’s belly, (although a pair of headphones works just fine!) As such, it is completely safe to play appropriate music at the appropriate volume level and duration to newborns.
There is no specific age at which children are considered “ready” to begin a formal music education. Babies and children develop at different rates in a highly individualized manner, so the parent must use their own best judgment when it comes to the introduction and formalization of music education in their children’s lives. Music lessons for kids often start around the age of 3-4 years old, but it’s important to understand that these early lessons are often informal and play-based. While these early start music lessons are certainly valuable, children typically begin to see the most benefit of a formal music education a few years later, from ages 5-7. And of course, it is never too late to begin!
How Can I Continue to Encourage and Nurture my Child’s Musical Growth?
We previously discussed several activities that will enrich a child’s musical life and education, such as singing together, playing with musical instruments and apps, musical story time, and musical movement games. All of these activities will help to cultivate an appreciation for and curiosity about music. A few other ways to keep the musical magic alive are to attend live performances, watch musical movies together, make instruments out of household items together such as the water glass xylophone or shakers, and create a musical environment in the home by playing different types of music during dinnertime, spending time actively listening to and discussing music, having family dance parties, and so forth. There are many ways to make music a family pastime, and once your child is ready for a more formal education from an expert, children’s music lessons are a wonderful way to continue their musical growth and development.
Forbes Music believes in the importance of sharing the joy of music through education. Learn more about our approach to provide the best experience for our music students. Or feel free to contact us today and we’ll connect you with the right teacher for your music lesson journey.
With the appropriate guidance and nurture, children will reap the benefits of music for a lifetime, fostering creativity, cognitive development, emotional expression, and a lifelong love for the transformative power of music.