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Music & Brain Development in Young Children

by Stacey Chaloux, studioD

From a very young age, children are drawn to music. Infants bounce to the beat, toddlers and preschoolers delight in their favorite songs, and school-aged children dance and sing along with the radio. But music is much more than entertainment. Music offers many benefits, including increasing learning and improving mental focus. According to KidsHealth.com, music contributes to a sensory-rich environment, which can forge new neural pathways between the brain cells.

Actively Experience

Young children respond best to music when they actively participate in music, rather than listen passively. Dance with your little one as you listen to music, and show her how to move to a slow-moving beat and how to move to a fast-moving beat. Using different tempos with your child will help her develop listening skills and will help her learn about tempo. Incorporate movement with music by singing songs that include hand motions or finger-plays, such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or "Wheels on the Bus." According to KidsHealth.com, combining music and movement helps children learn how to control their bodies and how to coordinate their movements, which helps build self-control and concentration.

Academic Concepts

Your child can also learn academic concepts and skills through music. For example, the alphabet song can introduce letters to young children, and the song, "This Old Man" can teach numbers in a much more memorable way than by using flashcards or by rote memorization. The website Education.com points out that those children who can keep a steady beat often show greater reading fluency. Give your child simple instruments like tambourines and shakers -- or drums to bang, shake and generally tap to the beat. Point out how these instruments produce different sounds, and that your child can play them in different ways. This helps build auditory discrimination, a skill that's helpful in learning phonics and reading. Singing a variety of songs can build vocabulary and increase language skills. According to KidsHealth.com, music can also help build reasoning skills, which are crucial for learning math and science. Introduce the concept of patterns by tapping or clapping out a simple rhythm and inviting your child to echo it back to you.


Children who are regularly exposed to music may begin to use music as a source of comfort or to soothe themselves. You may hear your child humming to herself as she plays music or if she makes up a song as you drive in the car. Music can help young children feel more secure and know what to expect, such as when you incorporate music into daily routines. Incorporate songs into common transitions or routines your child encounters during her day. Sing a certain song at bedtime to let your child know that it is time to go to sleep. Sing a clean up song when it is time to stop playing, like "Toys away, toys away, it's time to put your toys away" -- or change the words to "London Bridge" to "Brushing, brushing, brushing teeth."

Provide Variety

The early years are a great time to expose your child to a wide variety of music. The website KidsHealth.com states that you can improve your child's ability to analyze and comprehend music when he experiences different musical styles. Incorporate music into every aspect of his day by letting the music play while you cook in the kitchen; play a variety of recordings while you drive. Sampling different styles and artists by checking out music from your local library is a great way to expose your child to a variety of music in a cost-effective way. Take your child to musical performances you feel are age-appropriate, and encourage him to give his own performances at home.

About the Author

Stacey Chaloux is an educator who has taught in both regular and special education early childhood classrooms, as well as served as a parent educator, teaching parents how to be their child's best first teacher. She has a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Missouri and a Master of Education from Graceland University.

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