(Author Ms.Nithya Ramachandran - Montessori Guide and Consultant)
Music can touch us in a way that nothing else can. No better gift can we give to the children than to open this door for them.”
– Dr Montessori
Music is a universal language. It transcends geography, time, culture and age. All of us like one kind of music or the other and so do children. Even if children don’t actively sing, you will find them softly humming a song they heard or moving to the rhythm of an instrument.
Apart from the joy we get from listening to or making music ourselves, music offers a host of benefits for young children.
- Listening to music aids in language development by improving receptive language, spoken language and phonemic awareness.
- Musical experiences help in the development of cognitive skills through recognition of patterns and sequencing, understanding of cause and effect and improving memory.
- We can’t separate movement from music – and moving to music helps with bilateral coordination, balancing, development of equilibrium as well as fine and gross motor involved in learning to play an instrument.
- Making music together is also beneficial socially and emotionally as children understand emotions, learn to take turns, practice self-regulation and learn to work together.
‘For very young children, music has power and meaning that go beyond words. First, and most important, sharing music with young children is simply one more way to give love and receive love. Music and music experiences also support the formation of important brain connections that are being established over the first three years of life ‘
Carlton, E.B. 2000. Learning through music: The support of brain research. Child Care Exchange 133 (May/June): 53–56.
There is a lot more we can do with young children than just play rhymes off the internet. Here are some ways to enrich your child’s life with music.
Musical experiences can begin from the womb from around 7 months in-utero as that is when hearing begins to develop. We can play harmonious and gentle tunes and songs for our baby always making sure the music is at a reasonable volume. We can also sing softly to the baby and even play musical instruments. Choosing one song that is played repeatedly when the baby in utero can also serve as a source of comfort for the baby once they are born as this creates a point of reference to the womb.
Infancy and toddlerhood
After babies are born and as they grow towards being toddlers, there are many ways in which we can provide them rich musical experiences.
The first step in making music is listening and appreciating music – irrespective of the genre or culture. Early exposure to different genres of music, various styles, composers, languages and instruments builds a strong foundation for music appreciation in the young child. You can do this by carefully choosing a diverse range of music and intentionally set aside time to play them for young baby or toddler – you don’t really need to explain too much at this time, just let the absorbent mind take it all in. As you notice your child beginning to develop a preference for a certain kind of music, you can go further in depth into that genre but also continue exposing them to other genres. This can be done just for 10 – 15 minutes a day when the entire family can gather and listen to music together.
Apart from offering a variety of listening experiences, young children can be introduced to percussion instruments like the maracas, tambourine, triangle, bells, shakers and the xylophone. A small sized drum that can be either played with the hands or mallets can also be introduced. These can be displayed on the child’s shelf, just like any other material. When the child shows an interest in the instrument, the adult can demonstrate how to play it. The instrument also be introduced while listening to music or singing songs with the child.
Movement goes hand in hand with music. You may notice your baby or toddler swaying to the music you play or making movement while singing – encourage this and join in with them. Always provide space for moving in a safe manner. You could also use simple tools like a scarf or ribbon to wave around with the music that they are making or singing too. You can also play and sing songs with action and finger play to encourage you child’s sensitive period for movement.
Don’t be afraid to sing to your child and with your child even if you don’t believe that you can sing. Children are very forgiving and non-judgemental. They enjoy the experience of singing with us and it is a great way to bond with them. When you sing to babies and toddlers, make sure to slow down the pace of the song and just do a few lines at a time. They may not sing with you immediately but they are certainly listening and absorbing everything in. Slowly they make sing a few of the words from the song or do some of the action.
- You can all books about music, musical instruments, singers and composers to the book corner or music corner.
- Take your children to live concerts so they can see the magic come alive – make sure to check with the organizers if children are allowed and always sit at the back or on the side so you can leave when you child begins to get restless.
- You can also introduce the names of instruments and musicians using photographs, miniatures and nomenclature cards.
- Music can be woven into everyday routines and transitions – you can sing about getting ready to go out or taking a bath.
- Once you children know a few songs and can recognize some instruments, you can play games with them where you hum the song and they guess the name or they close their eyes and you play the instrument and they name it.
“We tend to think that the realm of music is the privileged area of some happy few. Experience has taught us, however, that if offered the right kind of education from a very early age onwards, anyone is capable of entering the realm of music. Not everyone has the talent to practice music at an artistic level, or create new work, but everyone can reach a stage where they can enjoy it.”
-Maria Montessori, The Montessori Approach to Music, p. 1