Music is a natural for capturing kids' attention and imagination and, as it turns out, it has a huge impact on your child's body and mind. Dancing, listening and playing to a beat can shift a kid's mood, help him cooperate and express emotions. Music makes even the most mundane task, like picking up toys or setting the table, quicker and less stressful for you and them.
Behavioral Benefits of Music
As a mom, you get to see firsthand how kids are drawn to music, even in their babyhood. "We should encourage our children as early as possible to listen to and make music," Music educator Paul Borgese says. "Children can start by listening to their favorite songs and accompanying the music with simple instruments made from household products. They can then advance to playing more complex musical instruments and perhaps even take formal lessons." Borgese, who teaches music programs at schools around the country, says that listening and playing music can help improve childrens' concentration, patience, self-confidence, coordination and relaxation.
Birth to Age 3
Music acts as a source of comfort and connection for babies and toddlers. Little ones love to hear the sound of the human voice, especially mom's and dad's. As a parent, you can use music to create routines and touchstones for your small child. Sing a special lullaby at bedtime—kids love the familiarity of repetition. Teach the same song to caregivers so that your child can feel safe and ease separation anxiety. Use music as a way to transition from one part of the day to another. If your child goes to day care or preschool, sing a special "going to school" song or play a CD in the car. This helps your child know what to expect and can make both your lives more peaceful.
Ages 3 to 4
Around age 3, most kids will begin to take a real interest in music. Combining music with movement such as clapping, jumping, dancing and waving helps improve coordination, reducing frustration and limiting "I can't do it!" tantrums. Borgese says, "Sing-along games are ideal for initiating movement and bringing children together in enjoyable group activities." Kids this age can focus a bit longer and are ready to bang on simple instruments such as a drum, toy piano or tambourine. Playing simple music and dancing can also help kids express emotions such as anger, excitement and anxiety, giving them an outlet besides tears or destructive behaviors.
Age 4 to 6 is just the right time to start music lessons like piano or string instruments. At this age kids can focus for short periods of time on one task and are naturally ready to develop fine motor skills. The practice periods required to learn an instrument can teach your child patience and improve concentration, which make routine tasks like waiting in line or learning to read less frustrating for your little guy.
Ages 6 to 10
School age kids start learning about the power of music for changing their mood or connecting with others. "Children age 6 to 10 can start learning that music has structure," Borgese says. "Rhymes, repetition and experimenting with different sounds also can be used for speech and reading development." Music lessons and choral groups can help teach patience and perseverance and build confidence as skills improve. Children at this age are also learning the power that music can have on mood. Kids may use favorite songs to help them relieve boredom, relax after a stressful day, connect with friends or get "psyched" for a game or party.