The sound of music

Dancing and singing with your baby is fun, but did you know that music also boosts her all-around development?

If you have high hopes that your child is going to be the next Beethoven or John Mayer, you should probably start her musical education early. Some babies as young as three months old have shown an ability to match musical pitch, and meaningful singing can begin at around 12 months when parents might even recognize snippets of well-known songs.

Children who are surrounded by music and encouraged to use their voices from an early age are usually able to sing competently by the time they start preschool. However, if this important window of development is missed, musical potential can literally wither away.

But beyond establishing a basis for natural musical talent, an appreciation and enjoyment of music can also play a pivotal role in developing other vital skills, intelligences, and desirable characteristics. In fact, there are a host of reasons why making music an integral part of your family life should be an essential part of raising a happy, healthy child.

Between birth and six years old, children are developing the ability to understand and unscramble the sounds of their culture’s music.

Music plays a role in wiring the brain. The process of decoding and figuring out how different sounds fit together—known as audiation—is vital in making the connections that enable the brain to understand and create music. This same process is also believed to improve the brain’s ability to understand the complexities and structures of language. Think of the act of singing actually expanding his vocabulary, and even by doing something as fun and simple as making up a song about a daily chore you can actively contribute to this effect.


Encouraging your child to improvise her own songs, or to fill in the missing words from a well-known tune that you are singing gives her a great brain workout, and will expand her creativity. And, whether or not you can actually carry a tune comfortably yourself, the main thing is to participate and enjoy the musical game, because this way your child will too—regardless of how developed her own intonation.

Researchers have shown that leaning to move rhythmically to a beat plays a key part in improving motor skills—there is even evidence to suggest that children who regularly dance and use their bodies to express rhythm are more likely to be able to successfully study and play an instrument. A good sense of rhythm is incredibly important in developing coordination, and children who are inactive a lot of the time are unlikely to develop a sense of rhythm and, as a result, will not learn the coordination that improves their natural athletic ability.

So, whenever possible you should dance and clap with your toddler, or encourage her to beat out a rhythm, either on a drum or just with a wooden spoon and saucepan. Simple activities such as these will help your child to gain an instinct for rhythm, and encourage her brain to make the vital connections necessary to coordinate eye, ear, and hand.

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