Should you play music for toddlers and young children? If so, what genre or form of music should you play – does it even matter? How much does music affect toddlers? These are questions that you, as a parent, may have wrestled with at some point. And you are right to have done so because children start responding to music from a very early age. It brings out a raw and uninhibited side of them that you may not have seen or suspected they had in them. Granted, anything you see for the first time in your kiddo is going to be cute and adorable! But music does more than just entertain your young one. It teaches your toddlers a number of skills. See what all toddlers stand to benefit from music.

Benefits of music for toddlers & young children

1. Helps in self-expression

Toddlers do not have the ability to form words and express what they feel. But this does not mean that they do not have anything to communicate. On the contrary, the inability to express what they are feeling can be frustrating. This can often lead to a misunderstanding which generally (and quickly) disintegrates into a preventable tantrum. 

Singing and music, in general, can be an effective tool to help your child express himself/herself to his/her satisfaction. There are many benefits of singing in early childhood. It helps them emote and communicate in a language that is readily accessible to them. It also enhances their sense of self esteem and confidence. And encourages group interaction.

Read more on how music encourages speech development in toddlers.

2. Channelises energy

Do you struggle with the high energy levels of your toddler, constantly running behind him/her trying to keep up? An active child can actually be a delight; you will never lead a single bored moment! But yes, it can be quite tiring. Before it becomes tiresome, why don’t you try a musical instrument. Percussion instruments like a drum set are ideal for such children. 

Children enjoy beating on different drums and producing sound. It acts as a great outlet for the high energy levels of your toddler. Drums also aid in hand-eye coordination and motor skills. 

“Very small babies like drums and xylophones – things that make noise easily when you tap them and don’t require too much skill. Then they grow to appreciate slightly more complex instruments. I think it’s important for children to be exposed to a variety of musical styles, languages, and instruments as early as possible. It makes them more receptive and open-minded.” 

– Bindu and Ambi Subramaniam, founders, SaPa in The Week

3. Unlocks potential

Children are creatures of habit. Rote and repetition appeal to them, giving them a sense of comfort in familiarity. So shlokas, rhymes, and songs are a big hit with them. Even very young children can be taught to play simple notes on a keyboard like Happy Birthday or Twinkle Twinkle. When they sing or play, they tap into their inner creativity; this makes them feel empowered, giving a glimpse of the potential within. The hope of creation is one of the best gifts of nature. So, don’t miss out on unlocking your child’s latent talent and skill with music! 

Introducing music and musical instruments to your toddler and child

Remember that for children, anything could be a musical instrument. It does not necessarily mean what it does to you as an adult. A bucket could be drums or your steel vessels could be cymbals. Tapping, clapping, whistling, hooting, and clicking all constitute sounds that have musical connotation for your child. You could also start with a jal tarang – a good place to teach music and science! 

4. Stimulates brain activity 

Can music make your child smarter? Several studies have found that music enhances cognitive ability in young children. A University of Washington study has found that there is some change in the auditory and prefrontal cortical regions of infants after they are exposed to music. It states that “individuals with musical training in early childhood have an enhanced ability to process musical sounds that generalises to speech processing.” 

Another study on 3000 children by a team from the University of Queensland has found that informal home music education is critical for development of learning outcomes in children – social, emotional, and cognitive development. This could include inventing songs at home, music and movement activities, playing and singing together and instrument making, and songwriting. 

You might also have noticed that children learn numerical skills, body parts, fruits, vegetables, and planet names better and more easily through songs. Music helps add an element of fun into learning. 

Your child’s first music lesson

It definitely helps to play music to your toddlers. A little structure can do wonders to boost their innate musicality. You could try SaPa’s Parent-Toddler program to harmoniously blend skill with bonding through the sessions.

5. Develops motor skills 

Toddlers are constantly experimenting with objects around them, with their own movements – touching, holding, grasping, pinching, pressing, bending, and stretching. So, the more variety in their surroundings, the more they learn to move their fingers in particular, and limbs in general. So, it would be a good idea to present them with a range of toys to help them explore their motor skills. 

Music increases a toddler’s sensory development as it helps build their perception to sound alongside. So, simple musical toys and instruments such as rattles, shakers, mini percussion sets, handbells and so on are a great place to start. Music also helps toddlers build coordination: hand-eye, right and left hand, and coordinated limb movements.

Would you like to expose your young children to a group setting where they will learn music and other basic life skills in a friendly and informal environment? The importance of music and movement activities in early childhood development is increasingly being acknowledged by parents and educators as children learn valuable motor skills along with interactive and communicative skills in a fun and natural setting.

At what age do toddlers respond to music?

Very young infants are able to respond to music. At first, you might notice simple reflexes to any sound – an important milestone in itself. So you would have seen your six month old also move towards and to music. When they are able to grasp objects, toys like rattles hold fascination. More coordinated movements happen when they are able to sit down. And then, once they are able to stand up, they start swaying and tapping – essentially ‘dancing’ to music.

mimic sounds. Toys and instruments that require hand-eye coordination and that have simple cause-effect relationship like xylophones, drums, and simple electronic keyboards attract them. So, expose your child to different musical instruments and forms from an early age. They will signal what they are interested in and ready for you just have to watch for the signs.

How to introduce music to your toddler

The process of introduction must have happened unwittingly – while you were pregnant. 😉 Whenever you listened to music, attended concerts, and chanted shlokas you exposed your little one to music. Once they are out, you can expose them to the beautiful and harmonious world by singing lullabies, playing bath time music, watching musicals, and playing and singing rhymes – any time you think they are likely to be rattled, it helps to listen to music – your singing voice will also most likely be a hit too!

The right music for toddlers

Parents tend to play music that they themselves like, to their toddlers and so a toddler’s preference of music depends on what they are used to listening to. Popular forms of music that people play include classical music, nursery rhymes, and songs with beats. Anything that evokes a positive response from your toddler is good music. Naturally, at bedtime, soft music like lullabies are preferable to hard rock.

“My daughter used to pull me towards the laptop and move the mouse to signal that she wanted me to play MS Subbulakshmi’s Shriman Narayana. She was 16 months old,” reveals an amused Shikha, mother of Riya, now a 10 year old Bharatanatyam dancer. She firmly believes in the benefits of listening to music in young children.

Help your child connect and play in the musical world out there. 

Read what violinist Ambi Subramaniam has to say about when he started violin classes and the right age to start music classes for children.

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