While some parents might think a long car ride of the same music on repeat is a huge headache trigger, it is a great learning experience for young children—especially with songs that can be used to elicit emotions and create social skills.
“Music is a form of communication that exceeds verbal language," explains Jessica Baron, a musician, author and child development specialist who is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit group Guitars in the Classroom. “Love and soothing, which a baby should get a lot of, is communicated through the human voice by singing. Songs bring language into the music.”
Baron says that songs can take the words and sounds that young children are beginning to understand and relate them to life lessons and social development. She shares some examples.
“I Love You”
This “Barney and Friends” song gives meaning to words that toddler-age children hear all the time, says Baron, with lines like “it’s a great big hug and a kiss from me to you” offering a relatable “action, a conceptual understanding.”
“The reason that song is so powerful for very little kids is it’s articulating what they’re feeling in a loving family,” she says “By the time they’re 5, they want to shoot Barney. But that song has done its job.”
“Make New Friends (But Keep the Old)”
The song known to Girl Scouts across America teaches an idea that kids can carry with them throughout their lives.
“Is it OK to have a new friend?” Baron asks. “Can you keep the old friend if you make a new friend? That’s a big idea.” This is an important lesson to be taught to kindergarten and first-graders, which is an age when name-calling and line-cutting starts, Baron says She says socialization is key to preparing for second grade when “they’re going to take off intellectually like rockets.”
Baron says that Malvina Reynolds' folk song—whose chorus features the life lesson that "love is something if you give it away, you end up having more"—is "a song about unselfishness" and "teaches the universal equation of loving." She adds that "the kids do a hand motion where they literally go from hugging themselves to extending their arms out to the circle to give that love away."