10 Ways to Encourage Musical Development

Incorporating music into your child’s life at a young age is easy and extremely beneficial to healthy child development. Music can positively influence your child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social growth in many ways. You don’t have to be a musician to give your child everything he or she needs to experience the benefits music has to offer.

Below is our list of ways to encourage musical development in your child:

Find music in everyday sounds like clocks ticking, birds chirping, or brushing your teeth. Learn songs that can accompany these sounds like Hickory Dickory Dock, Rockin’ Robin, and Brush your Teeth. Identifying everyday musical sounds teaches your child to become an active listener.

Teach your child words to express how music sounds.
Is the music high or low? (pitch)
Slow or fast? (tempo)
Loud or soft? (dynamics)
What instrument is playing the music?
Giving your children a music vocabulary will encourage verbal expression and allow for a fuller appreciation of the music they hear and play.

Introduce your child to a diverse selection of music. Don’t limit your classical music to Mozart and don’t limit your “kids music” to the popular child performer of the moment. Keep your playlist fresh and be creative! There is an entire world of music that can benefit your child- jazz, rock, Broadway, salsa, and tango to name just a handful. Search your music library for your favorite child-friendly “grown-up” songs and put together a playlist for car rides and rainy days. Remember- if you share music that you personally love, your child will sense your enjoyment and respond with even greater enthusiasm.

Sing out loud to your child without worrying about being “in tune”. Singing from the heart is inspiring and teaches your child confidence.

Incorporate music into your daily routines by using music as a dialogue to communicate with your child. Make up creative, personalized songs to help your child with transition times (like getting up in the morning, going to school, or going to bed at night) and when he or she is reluctant to do something (like cleaning up, eating vegetables, or taking baths). Encourage your child to help you “compose” these songs and make them part of your daily routine.

Dance with your child, teaching your child to experience music physically. Moving to the music helps children learn rhythm, coordination, and self-expression. Swing back and forth to a waltz, bounce up and down to a catchy beat, and tell a song’s story through dance!

Teach through music – the brain learns faster and retains information longer when learning through music. The Alphabet Song is one of the very first teaching songs we sing to children to help them remember the letters of the alphabet. These teaching songs we learn in early childhood stay with us for a lifetime. Use this opportunity to teach basic concepts through song!
Some examples of common teaching songs are:
Open, Shut Them
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Old MacDonald
Wheels on the Bus

Take a structured music class with your child to learn together, to hear live music in an intimate setting, and to touch real instruments as they’re being played. Playing with age-appropriate instruments in class (like maracas, xylophones, and keyboards) will improve hand-eye coordination and develop gross and fine motor skills. Playing music in a group of peers will also encourage confidence and stimulate vocal expression. After class is over, always ask your child to recall the songs you sang and the instruments you played.

Provide small instruments for your child to experiment with sound at home. Some of our students’ favorites are wavedrums, maracas, xylophones, harmonicas, and tambourines. Be green by creating drums out of cardboard boxes and shakers out of empty plastic bottles filled with various items.

Take advantage of all New York City has to offer by bringing your child to a variety of live, musical experiences around the city. Attend child-friendly classical music concerts, dance performances, Broadway shows, and music festivals. Don’t forget to stop and listen to street performers and subway musicians!

–Katia Asthalter and Carina Zimmerman are the co-founders of Three Little Birds Music, a children’s music studio and playroom located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. TLB offers group music classes, musical theatre classes, an indoor playroom, and birthday parties. For more information, visit www.tlbmusic.com or call 212-744-0404.