Throughout the ages and across all cultures, music has been a part of life. Parents naturally sing or speak in repetitive, rhythmic tones to sooth a crying baby. Even the first noises a baby makes, like cooing and babbling, have a musical sound to them.
There are many easy ways to incorporate music into your child’s life, and many benefits to doing so.
• Helps develop language skills. Young children learn sounds and words as they sing or listen to someone singing. The rhythm and repetition of familiar songs helps them build early literacy skills that they will need later on for reading.
• Is an easy way to teach many basic concepts. Most children learn the alphabet through song, making it much easier and more fun than just trying to remember the order of 26 different letters. Many children’s songs include counting, identifying animals and their sounds, or following instructions like clapping or specific movement.
• Helps develop listening skills. When children sing or listen to music, they learn to identify fast and slow, loud and soft, and high and low pitches.
• Encourages movement. Children need and love to move. Many children’s songs involve actions. Babies can be bounced on a parent’s lap and older children can jump and dance. Clapping, marching or swaying to the music builds rhythm and coordination.
• Encourages creativity. Children and parents can make up songs for almost any situation. Take a simple tune, like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" or "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and fill in your own words to describe what you are doing. Children can create musical instruments with empty plastic dishes to bang on or well-sealed containers filled with rice or pasta to shake.
• Makes transitions easier. A song can signal that it is time to move from one activity to the next. A cleanup song while picking up toys or a lullaby before sleep are the most common types of transition songs. Singing can also be a gentle distraction for getting in or out of the bathtub, getting dressed, or getting ready to leave the house.
Parents are often self-conscious about their own singing and may worry that, if they sing off-key, their children will not develop good singing voices. Don’t think of it as teaching your child how to sing, but rather as helping your child learn to love music in all its forms.
Sing the songs you loved as a child, sing along with your favourites on the radio, or just sing about feeding the dog or getting ready to go to grandma’s house.
Wonderful memories can be made as you enjoy music together.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
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