I think most of us recognize that music has benefits for our children. As a board certified music therapist, I have the training to bring out these benefits to help children reach their goals. I have also had the awesome experience of seeing children grow and learn over and over through music! When I plan my music sessions, the many benefits of music are on my mind, as are the developmental needs of the children I'm working with! Here are 5 ways your toddler benefits from music:
1. Learning Language
Language development is a huge goal during toddlerhood! Whether your child is just saying their first words or already speaking in 2-word phrases (or more!), there is still more to learn! Beyond just talking to our child, music introduces melodies that help children put words together into phrases and sentences. It uses rhythm, which imitates the rhythm of speech. Plus, many songs use sounds (Old McDonald), rhymes (Down by the Bay), or alliteration (Paw-Paw Patch). I have personally seen multiple children who have rarely (if ever) imitated sounds try singing the "Ah-ah-ah" part of "If All the Raindrops!" It's fun and silly! It's simple and repetitive! And the music gives a cue as to when it's supposed to happen!
2. Following Directions
Isn't this pretty much the number one thing we want our toddlers to do as moms?? Songs give great cues for movement by combining melody, rhythm, and words. By putting all of these together, our toddlers are more likely to listen to what they're supposed to do. For example, if we're asking them to clap in "If You're Happy and You Know It," the melody is giving a cue as to when to start, the rhythm is telling them how to clap (fast/slow), and the words are telling them what to do! It is great practice! If you're doing songs like this at home, start by modeling what you want them to do, then try just singing and having them listen for what to do!
Okay, moving probably doesn't seem to be an issue for your toddler, but they move so much because they are developing SO many new motor skills at this age! In many ways, music is simply an opportunity to practice a variety of these skills (for example: a song that asks them to hop, run, tip toe, and march). However, often the music is doing even more. When kids are supposed to be marching, the music will often have a heavy beat that encourages the movement we're looking for. For tip-toes, the music will change to be light and quiet. Laurie Berkner does a great job of using these types of changes when it comes to recorded kids' music!
4. More Movement
This time we're talking small details: fine motor movement! Action songs encourage a variety of movements that our children might not otherwise do regularly, but are important for other skills as they get older. Putting up individual fingers in "Where is Thumbkin" (I only do thumb, pointer, and pinky because they are more functional skills), bringing hands together over their head in "Mister Sun," pointing to eyes, ears, etc, in "Head and Shoulders," and crawling their spider in "Itsy Bitsy Spider" are just a few examples of fine motor skills being developed through music!
5. Playing Together
Kids are starting to become more aware of one another and learning beginning social skills at this age! Right now, it's hard to do things like share instruments, which I would usually promote during music classes, but there are still things we can do. Music promotes a sort of give and take, a conversation of sorts. We take turns within the song, waiting for the time to sing "MOO!" or "AH AH AH!" We practice concepts like loud and soft, and follow along with what other kids are doing. While kids are not consciously aware of it, they are learning that they can be part of a group. They see and hear that we are all doing something together, and it's great! It's important for kids to experience this, especially in times when it is happening a lot less.
SOOOOO... If you'd like to experience music like this with your toddler, come check out Music in the Park! We are staying distanced (bring a blanket to claim your own space), but still allowing our children to be a part of something! To develop language skills, follow directions, and get moving! I hope to see you there!