Kids are naturally attracted to music. They begin to respond to sound while they are still in their mother’s womb, can identify with rhythm as young as five months old.
You might have heard that exposure to music is good for kids – but have you ever wondered exactly how it could benefit them? It turns out there are distinct and long-lasting benefits for getting your child involved with music at various ages.
Let’s take a closer look at what these are, and how you can use this information as a parent to give your child the best start in their life.
Babies and Music
When babies are exposed to music, they naturally move to the beat. This response is innate, meaning it is ingrained in their being. Knowing that babies were created to rhythmically respond to music more strongly than they even respond to speech, it makes complete sense to incorporate music into a baby’s day-to-day life.
Music exposure helps in many critical areas of your baby’s development, including speech recognition, communication, and emotional expression. It also helps to improve cognition and memory and aids kids in developing counting skills.
Music has even been shown to aid in improving the vital signs of preemies, and also reduce stress. Babies who are sung to sleep have been proven to sleep better, and they can even improve their fine motor skills if they play on a toy or makeshift instruments.
If you’re interested in introducing your baby to music, don’t over-complicate it. Play a variety of types of music throughout the day and interact with your baby while you listen. Let them move to the music in whatever way they want, and let them see you moving, too. And even if there isn’t music playing, speak to your baby in rhythm and rhyme on occasion. Your baby will recognize the cadence and respond.
Toddlers and Music
Toddlers are ultra-expressive and love to mimic things they hear, so incorporating music into the every day may seem even more natural than when they were in the baby stage.
The benefits of music exposure that continue into this next phase of childhood include aiding their sensory development as well as their literacy, numeracy, and math skills. Music can also help develop your child’s vocabulary as they learn new words from songs they hear, as well as hearing them in a new context to help them understand the meaning.
Music is also a way to pass down family traditions, be it a long-held “bedtime song” or other lyric that your family has held for generations. It also helps children develop empathy and even aids in parent-child bonding.
Dancing to music can help support your child’s motor skills and aid in helping with their coordination. It can also help change their emotions and snap them out of a difficult mood – just as it does for grown-ups.
Toddlers are creatures of both habit and adventure, so remember to do both when incorporating music into their routine. Expose them to new things and watch their excitement take over as they dance enthusiastically, but also play their favorite tunes regularly, so they have a chance to practice their newly-learned lyrics and rhythm.
School-Agers and Music
Music may help kids during the developmental leaps of their youngest years, but the benefits continue once they’re school-aged, too. So don’t feel like if you weren’t the most musical mom when your kid was a baby, you missed the boat. Trust me; you haven’t.
Once a child starts to become more seriously involved in music education, their brain becomes more fully utilized, and there is additional room for neural growth. They develop a greater ability to multi-task, and there is scientific evidence that they can even improve their IQ.
Kids who are involved in music have been shown to do better on standardized tests, and it also helps to improve their memory, which helps in other areas of their education. It’s also been shown to improve their focus, patience, and self-esteem.
When getting your school-ager involved in music, you need to make sure it’s student-led. Because of the hours of dedication necessary to achieve proficiency, it’s important your child choose an instrument or activity that they are interested in, rather than being dictated by their parents. However, as a parent, you may need to set some initial parameters around affordability and practicality.
The Bottom Line
You don’t have to have exceptional music acumen to help your child reap the many benefits of being exposed to music. Something as simple as turning on the radio while you’re eating breakfast with your kids could even have an impact.
In reality, all you need is a willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone and – if you’ve got older kids – a willingness to support their interests and pursuits. For more detailed information – including essential playlists for every stage of childhood – check out this original research-based article from Mom Loves Best.