18 - 48 Months+

How to introduce your child to the benefits of music (Hint: It’s easier than you think)

You may have heard that music is good for your child’s brain, but can it really make that much of a difference? The short answer is yes. There are good reasons to introduce your child to music early—and it may be easier than you think 😉

What the research says about how music affects brain development

Early exposure to music has been shown to improve many school readiness skills like math, language, and executive function. Here’s what you should know about how music can benefit your child’s brain: 

There’s an early and important connection between math and music. Research suggests that babies and toddlers may be innately capable of seeing and hearing patterns. Even newborns begin to notice patterns as they are soothed with steady rocking, patting, and singing beats. This early link can impact future learning—simply listening to music with a steady tempo may increase young children’s attention to a math activity.

Interacting with music can build reasoning skills. Spatial-temporal reasoning is a form of problem solving that involves using our minds to imagine, visualize, and mentally manipulate objects. Young children use this reasoning when they build block towers or work their first puzzles. It’s a set of skills that are necessary in all sorts of occupations, from painting and graphic design to engineering and urban planning. Studies show that playing music can boost these skills, as your child learns to translate abstract ideas—like notes on a sheet of music—into sounds, rhythms, and songs. 

Engaging with music may help preschoolers think before they act. Following directions is a big part of music—your child learns to start and stop, play loudly or quietly, and make the right sound by hitting this note and not that one. This musical play can help strengthen your child’s inhibition—an executive function that includes skills like impulse control and emotional regulation. Research shows that young children who learn to play an instrument may develop these skills faster.

Children who play musical instruments at a young age can show improved language skills. There might be a reason that we use the word “reading” to describe how a child engages with books and music. The two skills are closely aligned: both require us to understand how symbols can be combined to make something new, like stories or songs. Studies suggest that engaging with rhyme and music at an early age may be linked with increased vocabulary and reading ability. 

Music gets children moving. Research finds that babies and young children tend to engage in more movement in response to music than to plain speech. Music gives them a chance to practice both gross motor control and proprioception, the understanding of where their body is in space. Learning to play an instrument at a young age can boost your child’s fine motor skills as well. 

How to help your child engage with music—whether you’re musical or not 

You don’t need to be an author to introduce your child to books and you don’t need to be a musician to support your child’s brain growth through music. You can keep it simple. Here’s how: 

Play for a few minutes at a time. When your child was a baby learning to hold up their head, a few minutes of tummy time went a long way. Introducing them to music is the same. Look for opportunities to fit short music sessions into your family routine each day. 

Let your child experiment with real instruments. Add some shakers, pat bells, and maybe even a pan flute to your child’s toy rotation. Or take out the guesswork completely: The Lovevery Music Set has six instruments developed by experts who know music and child development ❤️

Follow your child’s lead. We know from brain science that young children learn best through play. Don’t worry if your child is too squirmy to copy how you tap on a bell or if they’re more interested in rolling a maraca around the room than shaking it to a beat. You’re giving them the tools and the time to learn the best way they can: through exploration. And if they aren’t into it at the moment? That’s okay. 

Remember, music is everywhere. Your child engages with early language skills every time you read them a bedtime story or point out words when you go about your day. Look for similar ways to incorporate music: sing a short and sweet lullaby before bed, talk about how a snail moves at a slow pace and a cheetah moves at a fast pace, or turn a cardboard box into a drum. 

Learn more about the research

Forgeard, M., Winner, E., Norton, A., & Schlaug, G. (2008). Practicing a musical instrument in childhood is associated with enhanced verbal ability and nonverbal reasoning. PLoS One, 3(10), E3566.

Geist, K., & Geist, E. A. (2008). Do Re Mi, 1-2-3: That’s How Easy Math Can Be: Using Music to Support Emergent Mathematics. Young Children, 63(2), 20-25.

Geist, K., Geist, E. A., & Kuznik, K. (2012). The patterns of music: Young children learning mathematics through beat, rhythm, and melody. Young Children, 67, 74–79.

Gudmundsdottir, H. R. (2010). Advances in music-reading research. Music Education Research, 12(4), 331-338.

Hennessy, S. L., Sachs, M. E., Ilari, B. S., & Habibi, A. (2019). Effects of music training on inhibitory control and associated neural networks in school-aged children: A longitudinal study. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13, 1080.

Hetland, L. (2000). Learning to make music enhances spatial reasoning. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34(3/4), 179–238.

Hewitt, L., Kerr, E., Stanley, R. M., & Okely, A. D. (2020). Tummy time and infant health outcomes: a systematic review. Pediatrics, 145(6), e20192168.

Holst-Wolf, J. M., Yeh, I. L., & Konczak, J. (2016). Development of proprioceptive acuity in typically developing children: normative data on forearm position sense. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10, 436.

Ilari, B. (2015). Rhythmic engagement with music in early childhood: A replication and extension. Journal of Research in Music Education, 62(4), 332-343.

Maclean, M., Bryant, P.E., & Bradley, L. (1987). Rhymes, nursery rhymes and reading in early childhood. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 33, 255-281.

Miendlarzewska, E. A., & Trost, W. J. (2014). How musical training affects cognitive development: rhythm, reward and other modulating variables. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7, 279.

Rauscher, F. H., & Hinton, S. C. (2011). Music instruction and its diverse extra-musical benefits. Music Perception, 29(2), 215–226.

Rauscher, F., Shaw, G., Levine, L., Wright, E., Dennis, W., & Newcomb, R. (1997). Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children’s spatial–temporal reasoning. Neurological Research, 19(1), 2-8.

Shen, Y., Lin, Y., Liu, S., Fang, L., & Liu, G. (2019). Sustained effect of music training on the enhancement of executive function in preschool children. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1910.

Woodruff Carr, K., White-Schwoch, T., Tierney, A. T., Strait, D. L., & Kraus, N. (2014). Beat synchronization predicts neural speech encoding and reading readiness in preschoolers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(40), 14559–14564.
Zentner, M., & Eerola, T. (2010). Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(13), 5768-5773.


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Posted in: 18 - 48 Months+, Play to Learn, Playtime and Activities, Music, Playtime & Activities

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