Music is a fabulous teaching tool and a source of joy for kids and families. Singing with your child builds:
- Musical skills: Singing builds skills in matching tone, keeping a steady rhythm, varying speed and volume, expressing emotion through the voice, etc.
- Mathematical and spatial skills: Children who have taken music classes score higher on math tests. Music enhances brain development in areas tied to pattern recognition, counting, organization, time, and division of larger notes into smaller notes (i.e. fractions).
- Vocabulary: Music introduces children to the sounds and meanings of a wide range of words and helps strengthen memory skills.
- Literacy: Alphabet and number songs help children remember letter and number sequences.
- Rhymes and Prediction: As children sing, they learn about rhymes. Rhymes can help them learn to predict things… “if this line ends with star, the next line must be the one that ends with are.”
- Predictability and Cause & Effect: When you sing the same song to your baby or child over and over, they learn to expect what is coming next… “After mom says ‘with a one step, and a two step’ she’s gong to tickle me!”
- Tradition: Music is a unique and powerful way for children to connect to their roots. An African-American spiritual, a Yiddish or Irish lullaby, a Mexican folk song… all introduce a child to the family’s heritage in a way that goes beyond words or pictures.
- Emotional Intelligence and Social Skills: In the book Brain Rules for Babies, John Medina says that one of the most powerful things about music is that when a child learns to recognize different musical tones, they also learn to recognize different emotional tones, and can tell more about how the people around them are feeling. Even young babies who were exposed to music classes had improved communication: they were more likely to point to objects, wave goodbye, smile, and show less distress.
- Attachment: Music can foster emotional attachment. From the first day of our babies’ lives, music can be a way to make a connection – they love to hear the sound of your voice (and recognize both parent’s voices from hearing them in the womb). And pretty soon, the songs start becoming familiar and recognizable, and a part of their safe and secure environment.
- Routines and Transitions: Familiar songs create a sense of comfort for a child. No matter where you are, you always have access to this same familiar tune. Many parents and teachers learn the value of songs for reinforcing routines (“this is the song we always sing at bedtime”) and signaling that it’s time to transition from one activity to the next (the cleanup song!).
Are you inspired now and ready to sing to your child? Then be sure to check out my collection of Favorite Songs to sing with toddlers and preschoolers – it includes lyrics and links to videos for the tunes. (I also have a collection of fun science-themed songs to sing with ages 3 – 7.)
Here are more resources on the benefits of music:
- A collection of articles about research on How Music Promotes Learning: http://www.songsforteaching.com/references.htm
- Music and Brain Development:
- The importance of music to brain development: www.jamplay.com/articles/1-general/167-the-importance-of-music-to-brain-development
- Music and Young Minds: http://brainworldmagazine.com/music-young-minds/
- How Music and Singing Influence Literacy Skills: http://singwithourkids.com/Music-and-Early-Literacy.pdf
If you want to look directly at the original scholarly research on these topics, here is a journal article on the impact of active music classes on learning, that also includes extensive citations of other work in the field: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.01142.x/full or you can find brief research summaries on the benefits of music lessons for kids here.
If you’re just not into singing, nursery rhymes can give children many (though not all) of the same benefits. Check out: 10 Reasons Kids Should Know Nursery Rhymes.
Here’s a free printable hand-out of this information that you can share: Music Benefits PDF.