Music ignites all areas of child development. Listening to music, singing songs and grooving to the beat helps youngsters grow intellectually, socially and emotionally.
In fact, research shows that kids who are actively involved in music (who play it or sing it regularly):
- Do better in reading and math when they start school
- Are better able to focus and control their bodies
- Play better with others and have higher self-esteem
“Music and dance help the mind and body work together,” said Denise Stoneman, a nurse practitioner at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics Boardman. “Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meaning of words. Dancing to music helps children build motor skills, while allowing them to practice their individual self-expression.”
So, let’s get moving. Here are some ideas on how to get her singing along and grooving to the beat.
Throw a Pre-K dance party
The simplest thing you can do is put on music and dance with your child. Vary the rhythms and tempo of your body with the music. Practice “copy dancing” where you invite your child to imitate your movements and then let her lead as you follow.
You also can make the musical experience more visual through movement and a few props. Scarves can show ascending and descending pitches — raise the scarves up over your heads as you sing up the scale and then drop them down to the floor as you go down. Or, have your child walk on tiptoes when you listen to high, quiet music, and stomp her feet to louder, slower music.
Combining music and movement helps preschoolers learn to control their bodies. They learn to move quickly to fast music and more slowly to slow tunes.
They also can learn the hand movements and simple dance moves that go along with rhymes and songs. Learning physical control is an important developmental step and can help build concentration skills and self-control later on.
Bang a Gong
Although some music-instruction programs are geared toward preschoolers, most kids at this age will enjoy a more casual introduction to musical instruments. Provide a rhythm stick or a set of bells to hold in each hand and encourage your child to keep the beat while you listen to a song.
You can even make musical instruments together. Put seeds, beads, rice, beans or other small objects inside plastic containers or bowls with lids, plastic eggs, empty plastic bottles or film canisters. String, rubber bands and shoeboxes make great guitars and old coffee cans or oatmeal containers are ideal drums. Then, put on your child’s favorite CD and play along.
Keep the beat
You’ve probably noticed that your preschooler can keep a steady beat. You can help your child practice this skill by encouraging her to listen for beats — and determining if they’re steady or not — in everyday objects.
For example, point out the noise a kitchen clock makes and ask your child if it is a steady beat. Then, ask if a sound like a car horn or a dog barking has a steady beat. Practice clapping or tapping the beats to favorite songs and encourage your child to copy you.
If your household has musical instruments, your child may start to use them to create a mood — banging loudly on them when happy or playing them quietly before naptime. You can encourage this by playing appropriate music for your child to accompany.
Practice “patterns” — using a rhythm instrument or your hands, play or clap short rhythmic patterns. Invite your child to echo what you just played. As your child gets older and more used to the game, make the patterns longer and more complicated and then allow her to lead.
Also, help your preschooler explore a very basic instrument: her voice. Demonstrate the steps below and invite your child to do the same.
“This is my speaking voice “(spoken normally). “This is my quiet voice” (spoken in a whisper). “This is my calling voice” (spoken loudly). “This is my singing voice” (sung).
“Any form of music you choose will help build your child’s creativity and self-expression,” said Stoneman. “Music can enrich the lives of children no matter how it’s played or sung.”
(c) 2016. Article adapted from The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth(R). Used under license.