6 Ways Parents Can Use Music in Early Childhood
Music in Early Childhood is a pretty big deal. From increased bonding to improved communication to building pre-literacy skills, it has an impact on all areas of life. Here are 6 ways parents can use music during this wonderful time of life!
Singing is probably the most natural way to interact musically with your child. You don’t need any special equipment, recordings, or even a great voice. Your kids will just love the fact that you are singing with them or to them. Singing helps parents and children create bonds and connect on a whole new level, and is especially important in the early years with parent-infant bonding.
If you’re wondering what to sing:
For babies and toddlers: Use the classics that you most likely grew up with yourself—BINGO, Old MacDonald, Happy and You Know It, I’m a Little Teapot, Pop Goes the Weasel, etc. Your baby will especially love it if you help them to move to the music by bouncing on your lap, lifting them up high (like in “Pop! Goes the weasel), or helping them clap their hands and stomp their feet in “Happy and You Know It”.
For older children: I would suggest starting with whatever your children are interested in—for us this usually involves songs from favorite shows or Disney movies. Lately we’ve been somewhat obsessed with the “Little Einstein’s” theme song (mostly because I can’t get it out of my head!) but it is so fun because I’ll start singing a line and then my 2 year old or 4 year old will finish it for me and we laugh and keep the song going together. We also love Disney music around here and sing a lot of the classics from “Frozen” and “The Little Mermaid” on a regular basis. My son is also really into Star Wars and he loves to sing the theme song at the top of his lungs (da da da DAAAAA da!), which shows me that kids don’t even need song lyrics to connect to music and belt it out!
#2 Play Instruments
This is where it really gets fun! Kids LOVE creating sounds and exploring, and you can give them the tools to play and explore without too much effort. There are so many benefits that come from instrument exploration that link to improved socialization, literacy, executive functioning, sensory tolerance, or following instructions, to name a few. All things that are a pretty big deal in early childhood!
Home Instruments: If you are unable to purchase instruments you can easily use whatever is already in your house. Have a “music time” where the kids get to bang on pots and pans, make shakers out of Easter Eggs, rice/popcorn, and glue, or even strike up some body percussion (clapping, stomping, tapping hands on legs, snapping fingers, etc.). You can create rhythms together and have a lot of fun exploring sounds. There are also lots of ideas online on making instruments at home. Pinterest, anyone?
Purchasing instruments: I recommend searching for “instrument rhythm set” or “kids musical instruments” and see what comes up. There are a lot of varieties out there, but some of the things you should look for in a kit include:
- Drum with drum sticks
- Rhythm sticks
- Kazoos (usually not included in kits)
Have regular dance parties. I’m serious on this one! Find some favorite songs for your family and play them spontaneously. Dance parties can even make mundane moments become fun, like cleaning together, cooking, or getting ready for the day.
Twirling around the kitchen with my little princess, marching like storm troopers with my little Skywalker, or bouncing up and down with my little munchkin make up some of my favorite moments as a parent. They will be favorite memories for your kids too and they will remember their early childhood yeas with fondness! If you can, bring your spouse into play too and make a whole family event of the dance party—you’ll be glad you did!
We love Disney songs at our house, and I also highly recommend Laurie Berkner and Raffi. Some of my favorite songs from Laurie Berkner for dancing are “I’m Gonna Catch You”, “The Goldfish Song”, “The Monster Boogie”, and “I Really Love to Dance”.
When things get crazy try turning on some low key and calming music. Or even before they get crazy. If you have a certain time of day for down time (or quiet time, as we call it) you can cue this by putting on some soft music to help set the mood. It doesn’t matter so much what you play, just as long as it creates a calm feeling for you and your children.
I like Baby Einstein’s classical music, and Twin Sister’s Productions “Nature Sounds”.
#5 Support Routines with Songs
Have a certain song you play for transitions—dinner time, getting in the car, bed time, or anything else you do regularly. This can be something you sing “it’s dinner time, dinner time, 5 minutes ‘til dinner time”, or you can have a certain recorded song you play every night before dinner (i.e. “Biscuits in the Oven” by Raffi). Routines are so important in early childhood, and music can just make them more fun and predictable.
Our family has “family night” once a week and we have a family night song that I play on the piano and it gets the kids really excited. They get a chance to dance and be crazy then settle down at the end of the song. We also sing about simple routines as you are doing them, like giving your baby a bath, brushing teeth, getting ready for bed, etc. I have a whole album of songs that outline the steps involved in each of these tasks and they help kids remember what to do and stay on task.
Compile a playlist of your child’s favorite songs. Give them 10-20 minutes to listen to their favorite songs. It’s a nice alternative to video games/television and encourages them to use their imagination, helps in memory and recall, improves attention span, etc. I love to use a mixture of songs with lyrics and soundtracks as well.
My 4 year old loves imagining what’s happening when he listens to soundtrack music from his favorite movies/shows (like Disney’s Peter Pan or the Peter Pan musical), and will even act things out and let his imagination run wild! It’s also a fun way to play and imagine together.