Toddlers love music in all its forms—singing, dancing, humming, clapping, and banging things together (often loudly 🥁). Among other benefits, music inspires creativity, teaches social skills, and stimulates brain development. Also, as parents and caregivers well know, music is a great transitional tool: there are few more effective ways of helping kids with certain tricky tasks (like cleaning up and diaper changes) than singing along.
Still, the prospect of incorporating music into everyday life can be intimidating, and routines can get stale. Never fear: you don’t have to play an instrument, be a trained vocalist, or even be able to carry a tune to incorporate music into your toddler’s life.
Fun ways to incorporate music into your toddler’s life:
Listen for environmental sounds
Rhythms and beats are everywhere in your toddler’s life—you just have to listen for them. On car rides, pay attention to the regular sounds made by wheels, turn signals, and sirens. If you point them out and imitate them, all of these can be incorporated into a de facto drum circle. Your toddler may even start to clap and drum along; even if they don’t, they’re reaping the benefits of your concert.
Sing instructions and transitions
Kids at this age are constantly testing limits—it’s all part of the job of being a toddler. Singing (instead of stating) an instruction like “clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere,“ can help encourage them towards the behavior you want to see. You can even make up a song about getting out of the bath, getting into the carseat, diaper changes, brushing teeth, and leaving somewhere fun.
As your toddler approaches 2 years of age, they may start to understand and follow two-part directions. This is a great opportunity to try freeze dance! Load up a favorite song and explain that when the music plays, you’ll dance, and when it stops, you’ll freeze. Demonstrate what it looks like, then go for it. The freezing likely won’t be perfect—that’s just fine. Try striking a pose and making a funny face when the music stops, varying the length of the music clip, and varying the speed at which you and your toddler dance.
Our mouths as an instrument
Get your toddler humming, singing, and experimenting with all the noises their mouth can make. Have them mimic different types of rhythmic breathing, blow “raspberries” to a beat, stretch your mouth into an oval and gently flick your cheeks, trill, “pop” your cheek from the inside with a curled finger, and make “ch-ch-ch” sounds.