Music is an important part of culture, wherever we come from in the world. In many cultures, songs share the story of everyday lives and help people understand who they are and how they fit into the community. We also know that music is part of modern life. It is all around us in nursery rhymes, movies, in popular songs and in advertising jingles that stay in our minds once we hear them. Music is a great influence in our lives.
What does this mean for young children today? Is music as important for them?
Music is ever present in young children’s lives too, right from the earliest days. We instinctively sing soothing sounds and lullabies, to express love and interact meaningfully with our babies and young children. They respond by becoming calm and settled at the comforting sounds we create.
Music has long been recognised as an ideal vehicle for learning. Infants can recognise tone, rhythm and tempo of sounds. They move, clap and sway to the melody they hear. I have seen a 10-month-old baby able to sing in perfect pitch up and down the scale. Infants recognise melody long before they understand the meaning of lyrics. They will mime sounds and move to the beat as soon as they are able. Toddlers share this uninhibited love of music and movement – they will sing in tune and march to the beat too.
Music is part of the landscape of childhood and is a vital as other areas of learning for young children. It helps to connect many elements in the world. Music speaks to and is a vehicle that supports all areas of development; social, emotional, language, physical and cognitive. It is simply joyful and fun. Music is a dynamic, emotional and social learning experience. Children learn to cooperate, share, concentrate and face new challenges when they learn songs and movement sequences.
Kindergarten children enjoy unself-consciously singing and dancing, completely in the moment. Language has a tempo, rhythm, stops, pauses and starts in appropriate places. Music shares these attributes, helping young children learn the patterns of speech and nuances of language in an enjoyable way. Music is a wonderful vehicle for learning language and self-expression – important life skills.
Researchers such as Gardner (1983) recognise that music provides a way of knowing about the world and how it works. Music is as much a basic life skill as walking and talking, Peery and Peery (1987). Profound connections exist between rhythm and movement.
Early childhood is the time to develop the ability to sing and move through playful activities, with thoughtful adult guidance. An environment rich in appropriate music and movement experiences contributes significantly to the overall growth and development of each child. Remember that music is portable and can be enjoyed, sung and danced to indoors and outdoors.
How can you support your child’s learning through music and movement?
• Play a variety of music with different sounds, instruments and tempo
• Dance with your child – enjoy being joyful and carefree in the moment
• Clap and beat sticks along with the rhythm and beat – develop that ear for sound
• Learn the words to songs your child enjoys and join them in a sing along
• Enjoy times of quiet and calm too, as a comparison with the sound of music
Have fun and be joyful in the moment.