Did you know that making music with your little one helps build their language skills? Research shows that music helps children decode sounds, words, and speech patterns, and it also helps develop the language processing area of the brain. Parents are commonly told that reading books aloud and speaking frequently to children are the main ways to build language skills, but current research suggests that actively making music with your child can also be a wonderful language learning tool.
Language and music processing occur in the same part of the brain, called Broca’s area, and they have been shown to interact. Importantly, music and language share some key building blocks (such as pitch and rhythm), and studies suggest that exposing infants and toddlers to music can lay the foundation for language acquisition.
“Speech is sound. Its acoustic attributes — pitch, rhythm, and timbre — can serve strictly musical purposes … Just as composers have made music out of speech, so too does every human voice. As adults, we learn to tone down the features of speech that do not contribute to meaning. In contrast, infants rely on a complete battery of musical information to learn speech: timbre, pitch, dynamic stress, and rhythm.”
Are you ready to get musical? Here are some simple ways to introduce music to your baby, toddler, or young child:
- Sing – Let your child hear your voice – your little one doesn’t care if you can hold a tune! Songs are filled with organized speech patterns and sounds that help with learning language. Nursery songs are a great place to start, such as Pat-a-Cake and the Itsy Bitsy Spider.
- Jam out – Pull out some kid-friendly instruments or make your own using pots, pans, and mixing spoons. Play your favorite album or playlist and have a jam session together!
- Move to the beat – Help your child feel the beat of the music by bouncing them on your lap or patting their legs. You can also let them see and hear the beat by clapping and tapping/shaking instruments!
- Create simple songs for routine activities – Music makes anything more fun – especially chores like cleaning up, changing a diaper, brushing teeth, and getting dressed. Take a familiar tune and swap the words to fit the situation! Daniel Tiger has some great examples for inspiration.
Don’t worry if you’re not a musical genius! You don’t need to be Mozart to incorporate some very basic musical activities that can have a positive emotional and cognitive impact for your child. Remember to keep it silly and fun! Aside from the language learning benefits, joyful music making can form deep bonds between you and your little one that can last a lifetime.