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Jam With Me Kiddo! Informal Music Making Is Terrific for Development

Expose babies and toddlers to music from a young age. (Image: Pixabay/ CC0 Public Domain)
Expose babies and toddlers to music from a young age. (Image: Pixabay/ CC0 Public Domain)

A new longitudinal study, involving over 3,000 Australian children, found that unstructured music making has positive effects on child development, much like shared reading activities.

Parents have been encouraged to read to their children every day for the many benefits it brings — beyond literacy, extending into improved social, emotional, and cognitive outcomes. Now we can see, from this recent social study, that free music play also stands alone for it’s value in developing numeracy, attentional and emotional regulation, and vocabulary.

Music time at kindergarten is a fun social occasion with no pressure to learn. (Image: CCO Public Domain Via Pixabay)

Music time at kindergarten is a fun social occasion with no pressure to learn. (Image: Pixabay/Public Domain CCO)

We know this because in the study, the research team measured the effects of both reading and music separately and in combination for children aged 2-3 years. Later, at age 5, the children partaking in musical jams with their families had reaped just as much benefit as those who were read to regularly.

Music-play is a valid activity to bring into your child’s life; just because of it’s simplicity, it should not be overlooked.

This is good news for families who can not budget for extra-curricular music activities — it’s good to know that engaging with your child in an environment that fosters musical ability is just as rewarding as formal musical training. In other words, they are not missing out.

Music activities for children

If your child is enjoying structured music lessons, this is also a good thing.

However, allow your child to do some experimental music making too, and try other instruments that are not familiar.

It will enhance their creativity, broaden their musical scope, and bring joy and relaxation to the craft.

Children love to hear the different sounds of new instruments. (Image: CCO Public Domain Via Pixabay)

Children love to hear the different sounds of new instruments. (Image: Pixabay/Public Domain CCO)

Here are some ideas for young children:

  • Create new lyrics to familiar tunes.
  • Use percussion in a counting or alphabet song.
  • Play along with the recorded music your child likes.
  • Play a song on your chosen instrument together, then swap.
  • Introduce new sounds to your child, then ask your child to show you a sound they can play.
  • Collect instruments; simple maracas or castanets are easy to find and cheap — you could try to make your own.
  • Convert kitchen implements into musical instrument for the afternoon.
  • Make a marching band.
  • Take a waterproof instrument, such as a triangle, into the bath.
  • Bring music to story telling by using different instruments to highlight the moods or the characters in a story. For example, when the giant enters, your child can sound a low-sounding instrument.
  • Think of a story, activity, or person, then proceed to make a song about it together.
  • Make instruments out of natural materials. They will have a subtle sound compared to a loud brass instrument or drum.
Children make an instrument from a cardboard tube. (Image: CCO Public Domain Via Pixabay)

Children make an Australian Indigenous instrument, called a didgeridoo, from a cardboard tube. (Image: Pixabay/Public Domain CCO)

These activities are very open-ended, which is what you want — there are no rights or wrongs, just fun, invention, and a time had exploring together.

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