At one time, most parents (the vast majority of times meaning the mother) would very regularly sing to their babies and younger children.
That process was seen as “natural” for the most part and not really done as part of a designed strategy. However, it had a huge range of benefits, including both comforting the child and with slightly older toddlers, it was an important step in aiding language development and the transmission of culture and cultural values.
There is some evidence that such practices are declining, which, if so, would be a pity. Music is exceptionally important in helping toddlers develop and some studies have indicated that exposure to it from an early age may be linked to improved academic performance in later childhood.
Here are a few ideas on the subject.
There is no doubting the value and flexibility of digital music but it is no substitute for an in-the-flesh parent or care provider’s voice.
It doesn’t matter how bad your voice is (there often won’t be anyone else around to hear!), try singing regularly to babies and younger toddlers. Nursery rhymes are great and keep the music’s structure simple.
However you’re delivering the music, as stated above, keep it simple for babies and toddlers.
Many very young children may struggle to understand highly complex abstract orchestral or operatic pieces (very young children may interpret loud high-pitched singing as a distress signal) and some genres such as Hard Rock, may prove frightening with their sudden changes, heavy beat and ominous tempos.
There are excellent music packs available aimed specifically at younger children.
Keep the volume levels low, on the whole. Younger toddlers may well have much more acute hearing than their parents and loud music can be intimidating for some.
..+Music versus words
In the case of very young children, incline towards pieces that are far more rhythmic and musical than word-intensive. Younger children can become baffled if music consists of lots of complex sentence structures they can’t, at that stage, understand.
Of course, as they age, music can be very important in helping develop their vocabulary. So, increase that component as time passes.
It’s particularly good if you can get your young child to interact with the music through dance and yes, playing instruments.
True, this raises the dreaded spectre of a baby banging a drum or bell endlessly while music is playing but if you can bear it, it’s very important as an aid to the child developing their hearing-brain-hand coordination and synchronisation skills.
This is also very important in the context of play. The best-known example is musical chairs but there are many other and non-competitive options based around music. Good daycare and nursery centres will also most likely make use of music to facilitate play.
Some music for toddlers also contains dialogue that asks the child to do something, such as “..and we all sit down..”. This again is linked to play and is a great way for toddlers to link musical melodies with real meaning in the context of a game.
Music can be a powerful tool in helping young children to develop a whole range of skills.
There are some great music-based learning and entertainment aids out there. It’s worth finding out more.