Being exposed to a musically rich learning environment has a great positive impact on young children, especially preschoolers. Musical activities help children explore the world around them and discover new things in an entertaining and enjoyable manner.
When children engage in musical activities--such as singing, moving to music, doing action songs, and playing musical instruments—they also develop other skills, such as language, math, hand-eye coordination, social skills and so much more.
Music and Early Childhood Development
The early childhood years, which encompass birth to age 5, is the time when young children learn the basics of everything, from speaking and reading to counting and interacting with others. Children do this primarily through play, and every moment is an opportunity to learn, and every space--the environment--is literally a playground.
What is the role of music in all of this? According to Mary Luehrisen, of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a music-rich experience for children that involves listening, singing and moving brings a serious benefit to kids as they progress into more formal learning. This is because children that engage in music learning and other music activities tap into a variety of skill sets at the same time.
Music helps little kids build powerful brain networks that support and fortify their learning in areas such as visual perception, memory, mathematics, language processing and creative expression. According to Mount Holyoke College neurobiology professor Susan Barry, music molds the mind, and making music actively engages the synapses of the brain.
Music for Preschoolers
As children participate in music-based activities in preschool such as singing, moving to music, and playing instruments, their intellect, senses and muscles are engaged simultaneously, contributing to their overall development.
For example, when preschoolers learn an action song, they use their eyes to see their teacher and move their bodies to mimic what the teacher is doing. They listen to the music with their ears, and try to repeat what their teacher is singing. They also observe what their classmates are doing, and everyone tries to sing and move together. They repeat the song and the movement, practicing their memory skills along with their motor skills, and becoming attuned to the overall "vibe" of the group.
If a child's environment is musically rich—that is, full of musical objects and experiences like the example above—then they are bound to be exposed to new and richer musical elements as they grow. All they need is the right stimulation and encouragement for them to explore and play, and therefore learn and develop.
Creating a Musically Rich Environment for Children
If you're an early childhood educator or a parent, here are a few tips to create a musically stimulating environment so preschoolers can get the most of their learning experiences.
Tip #1: Expose your child to music as often as possible. Listen to different songs from different genres, watch orchestra concert videos and individual recitals, watch videos of music-making by different cultures, sing nursery rhymes and other popular tunes and so on—the more music you expose your child to, the bigger a part it will play in their development.
Tip #2: Use age-appropriate musical instruments or make your own simple instruments from everyday objects, such as tin cans. Think creatively and you’ll realize that anything can be a musical prop! Make the music-making objects accessible and let children explore the different sounds they can make with them. Encourage them to move and sing as they play.
Tip #3: Make up a song your children can sing along to while doing different activities. You can take a familiar tune and modify the lyrics, or come up with something unique. You can have a song about bath time and grooming, eating veggies, or even a song about doing simple chores such as putting away toys.
These tips are a good place to start creating a musically rich environment for developing children. For more ideas, visit Parenting Now’s YouTube page for Circle Time videos to watch with your toddler. These short videos, led by a Parenting Educator, feature songs, finger play, movement ideas, and more. Try these out and watch your children learn while having fun.
Ellie Mckinsey is a regular writer on how music can help in a child's development. She also writes regularly about playing and learning musical instruments, particularly the piano and guitar. When not writing, Ellie enjoys traveling to new places and countries as well as trying to complete her bucket list.