By Melodie Veldhuizen
All children possess an innate music talent and sensitivity for rhythm. Just take note of how a baby who cannot even walk yet, moves her body to the beat of music. Music, together with movement, are important for children’s optimal development.
What is the value of music and movement for children?
- Improves mood because children’s music is cheerful and movement speeds up the supply of oxygen to the brain. Lullabies calm babies and let them relax, so that they sleep peacefully.
- Promotes memory development as they memorise the words, rhythm, tune and movements.
- Improves attention span as the words of the song indicate the next movement, and the tune and rhythm indicate faster or slower movement.
- Promotes sensory development when they listen to different kinds of music.
- Strengthens their innate sensitivity to rhythm.
- Promotes vocabulary, language development and general knowledge. Songs and accompanying movement help them to understand the meaning of words. Think of actions songs like clap your hands, stamp your feet, touch your head. Children’s songs usually have a theme (for example a specific animal or object), an activity (for example baking pancakes or a train ride) or they tell a story (for example Heidi, Pinocchio, The Animal Concert or Raggedy Ann). With each song they learn new words and their meanings.
- Promotes receptive language development (words that children understand but cannot as yet pronounce). They can for example identify an animal by the sounds the animal makes in a song and imitate the animal, even if they cannot as yet pronounce the animal’s name.
- Numeric skills/ability to count: Many songs are about numbers and counting, for example Five little monkeys, Ten green bottles or Three blind mice. It helps children to anticipate what number is to follow – it forms the basis for literacy and numeric skills.
- Fantasy play and symbolic thought are encouraged through the use of objects to represent what they are singing about, for example a chair can represent a train.
- Social-emotional skills and self-image: Music is often enjoyed in a group – children sing, dance and play an instrument together with friends. They learn to share and to take turns to for example play an instrument or sing a song. If a song describes emotions, it helps them to understand emotions, especially if it is accompanied by facial expressions and gestures. By just listening to instrumental music, they learn to distinguish between sad and happy sounds. The self-confidence of introverts who would never perform in front of others, is given a boost if group-related.
- Cultural awareness and multilingualism: Songs in children’s home language that form part of their culture, provide a sense of being sheltered when they are in a playgroup or nursery school. They also learn about other cultures and languages when they sing songs in other languages.
- Coordination and balance are promoted as movement to the beat of the music encourages hopping, jumping, galloping, crawling and balancing. Children use their bodies as a whole and their limbs in other ways than the ordinary.
- Promotes large and small motor development, depending on the kind of movements encouraged by the song.
- Promotes bilateral coordination (simultaneous use of both sides of the body, such as marching) and midline crossing (use of one side of the body in the space of the other side of the body, for example touching the left ear with the right hand).
- Music and movement are good for children’s general wellbeing.
When do you start exposing your children to music?
- Already start playing music for your unborn child during your pregnancy.
- Children are optimally sensitive and susceptible to music and movement between 0 and 7 years and they learn through music and movement.
- Start with age-appropriate music education as soon as possible after your baby’s birth.
How to do it:
- Develop and cherish her natural musical instrument – her voice. But supplement it with bought or self-made toy instruments (trumpet or drum), or a kitchen orchestra (pots and spoons). With these instruments they learn about rhythm, faster and slower, louder and softer.
- Sing a lot with and to your child. Encourage dance steps and movements to the beat of the music.
- Never laugh at children, even if they sound a bit “off key”.
- Also tap the rhythm of the tune in any way, such as clapping hands, or on your child’s shoulders, head or back. They enjoy the playful touching.
- Play CDs with diverse kinds of music – instrumental and vocal.
- Watch age-appropriate music DVDS together. They will soon sing along and imitate the movements of the characters in the DVD.
- Take children to musical performances.
Play and Playground Encyclopedia. https://www.pgpedia.com/t/temporal-awareness
Playgroup NSW. https://www.playgroupnsw.org.au/ParentResources/EarlyChildhoodDevelopment/importance-of-music-toddler-development
Zero to Three. https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/1514-beyond-twinkle-twinkle-using-music-with-infants-and-toddlers
Karyna le Roux Nuusbrief 4 April 2019. Kinderkinetikus (076 733 9349) firstname.lastname@example.org