Most preschoolers are naturally drawn to music. They move to a beat, jump up and down, and sing with abandon – whether or not they know the right words to a song.
But entertainment and the exercise associated with dancing aren’t the only benefits of exposing a preschooler to music. Research shows children who are actively involved in music – meaning they play or sing it regularly – benefit because they:
- do better in reading and math when they start school
- are better able to focus and control their bodies
- play better with others and have higher self-esteem
Take advantage of your preschooler’s natural curiosity and expand their musical horizons. Expose them to different kinds of music: classical, bluegrass, gospel, folk songs, hymns, choral music, opera – and, of course, your favorite classic rock (as appropriate) tunes.
Here are a few suggestions to get you moving and making music:
Choose a few songs to listen to with your preschooler.
- Distinguish between loud/soft/fast/slow. Act out the songs through movement or with a rhythm instrument (maracas, tambourine, bells, rhythm sticks, hand-clapping, etc.). Creative movement helps expand a child’s imagination.
- Introduce fingerplays, such as “5 Little Ducks Went Out to Play,” “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” and “Open, Shut Them.” Finger play promotes language development, fine-motor skills, and coordination. It can also boost a child’s self-esteem – what young child isn’t proud when they sing a song and do the accompanying finger movements?
- Share classic children’s songs such as “B-I-N-G-O,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “On Top of Old Smokey” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
- Play musical games. Games such as “freeze dance” help children practice impulse control – an important skill for school. Other fun games include: The Hokey-Pokey, Farmer in the Dell, London Bridge is Falling Down.
- Have fun with rhythm. With or without music, clap, stomp and move to rhythms. Make a simple pattern by clapping, stomping or patting your knees, and see if your child can copy it. Add snapping fingers as your child gets older.
- Encourage children to make up their own songs. Start with a familiar tune such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and help your child create a new set of lyrics. (For inspiration, check out “world famous songwriter” Mr. Don Music, a Sesame Street character who rewrote such songs as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and even “The Alphabet Song” at www.sesamestreet.org.
If you’re not sure of the words, movement or music for the activities listed above, ask your child’s music teacher or the local librarian for help. There are scores of books, recorded music and videos available to get you started, and local libraries often have opportunities for children to be exposed to free, live music performances.
Whether they’re singing in a group, marching in a percussion band, making up new lyrics to a song or shaking a maraca, music allows children to express themselves. Creative movement – learning to move their bodies in time to music or pretending to be a floating butterfly- is a creative way to tap into a child’s imagination and artistic side.
The greatest benefit of making music with your young child? It’s fun! So belt out a song or put on some tunes and dance up a storm. You’re sure to put a smile on everyone’s face and make a cherished memory in the process.