Did you know… studies have shown that music has huge, positive effects on early childhood development?! Exposure to music- listening, singing, dancing, or playing- fosters many essential early learning capabilities, including
- Speech development
- Listening skills
- Patterning and sequencing (early math skills)
- Rhythm, beat, and timing
- Social skills
- Emotional development
- Physical coordination
The Elements of Music
Each aspect of music contributes in many ways to a child’s fundamental development. For instance . . .
Beat serves as the master timekeeper for all music, while engaging listen- ers in a common experience. When you rock or dance to the beat together, the music gives your child a sense of being in sync with you and the world around him.
Rhythm maps the timing of each note in a song. We each have a unique sense of rhythm that influences our style of moving, communicating—and even thinking.
Tempo is the pace and timing of the music (fast or slow). Tempo gives little ones important clues about big ideas such as order, sequence, and the pas- sage of time.
Pitch tells the story of the song as the notes go up and down, much like words selected and arranged in a sentence to convey an idea. For children, music serves as a gentle guide to understanding the intricacies of language and communication.
Dynamics are variations in volume (loud and soft) and intensity. They express emotion (strength, playfulness, sadness) and offer clues about the overarching message of the music. Dynamics offer children the opportunity to explore feelings.
Melody brings pitch, beat, rhythm, tempo, and dynamics together to create the tune we hear. Melody aids in memory by compressing multiple bits of information so it’s easier to remember. That’s why songs like the ABC song work so well (and stay with us for a lifetime).
Harmony introduces complexity to the music and mirrors important social skills young children grapple with—skills like conversation, speaking, and listening.
Intervals mark the changes in music. An inter- val is the difference in pitch between two notes. Intervals build anticipation for what’s next while giving the listener the time she needs to follow along.
Lyrics (words) multiply the language development value of music for young children.
As you can see, music all on its own is a powerful force for learning and growing. But when you add movement to music, from toe tapping to hand clapping to hitting the dance floor, the benefits multiply manyfold. When children use their bodies to explore, they are engaging the entire brain in the experience. So the next time you’ve got a few minutes, turn on some music and start moving. It’s great learning, and it’s a lot of fun, too!