our everyday life

Teaching Kids the Meaning of Tempo & Rhythm

by Erica Loop

Even if your child isn't the next Mozart, teaching her the basics of music provides benefits galore. Music education can help students to develop abstract thinking skills, build language abilities and increase mathematical skills, according to the Michigan State University's Community Music School. Teaching kids what tempo and rhythm are introduces them to concrete music concepts and provides a base for further study.

Tempo-Loving Toddlers

You can start your child's music education at an early age, beginning in the toddler years. KidsHealth notes that music is part of providing a sensory-rich environment that stimulates brain development and learning. Although your toddler has a limited vocabulary, he is learning new words every day and can begin to master musical concepts such as tempo and rhythm. Use an active approach to teaching tempo and rhythm to your toddler, engaging him in the learning process. Instead of simply saying the words, combine the vocabulary with actions that he can repeat. For example, clap with your tot, speeding up and slowing down the pace to show him what tempo is or create different patterns of claps to illustrate rhythm.

Preschool Primer

As your child moves into the preschool years, you can begin to combine other concepts -- such as math -- along with her musical lessons. Instead of just clapping beats to demonstrate what tempo is, you can have her count the beats in her favorite song or while you lightly pound on a drum. You can also have your preschooler create her own rhythms while playing toy or real instruments. Give her a toy piano on which to make musical patterns, help her to strum a guitar or use household objects -- such as a cooking pot and a wooden spoon -- to create her own beats.

Maturing Musical Education

Grade schoolers can tackle more complex activities using the musical concepts of tempo and rhythm. Add in a meaningful math lesson and have your elementary school student explore tempo and have him count the beats in a set time of a song. Choose a popular song that he listens to on the radio -- making sure first that it is age-appropriate -- and set a time limit such as 60 seconds. Have him intently listen to the music, counting all of the beats. He can then create a fraction of beats to time. Explore the meaning of rhythm by playing a parrot type of repeating game. Play a pattern for your child on the piano or tap it out on the table with your fingers. Ask him to follow the rhythm and repeat it.

Creating Unique Music

Older kids and teens can make sense of tempo and rhythm concepts by creating their own music. If your child takes music lessons, or you have the know-how, have her write her own sheet music out. Provide her with blank sheet music, having her pencil in simple beats and a pattern-like rhythm to play on an instrument that she already practices on. If your child doesn't play an instrument, she can use her own voice to sound out rhythms. Record her self-made music for her to listen to and reflect on after the activity is complete.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images