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The Importance of Music in Early Childhood Development + 8 Music Activities

Young children love music. They grow up exposed to it in their homes, schools and environments.

It is obvious how much pleasure and enjoyment your children get from music, but did you know just how important music is in early childhood?

Here are 8 reasons, as well as 8 simple ideas and music activities you can try at home.

What is the Importance of Music in Early Childhood?

The benefits of music are huge during the early years. It stimulates some of the following developmental areas:

1. Brain Development

Music builds overall brain development and creates pathways in the brain that improve a child’s cognitive functioning.

Language, reading and mathematical abilities, in particular, are developed through music activities. These are further explained below.

2. Language and Vocabulary

Songs and rhymes expand a child’s vocabulary as well as their ability to use language correctly.

The repetition in popular rhymes and songs helps children to memorize new words. They also become familiar with language patterns and how words are placed together.

A well-developed vocabulary enables children to communicate effectively and learn to read with greater fluency and comprehension (to read for meaning).

3. Auditory Perception

Auditory perception is the brain’s ability to make sense of what it hears through the ears. This is one of the most important skills for reading.

Children must be able to hear various sounds, distinguish them from each other and manipulate them (e.g. blend an s and a t into one sound st to read the word stop). They must also be able to join sounds and break them apart in order to be able to read and spell words.

Teaching children classic songs and rhymes is one of the best ways to develop their auditory perceptual skills. It is fun and children learn auditory skills with little effort.

Nonsense rhymes are great for tuning a child’s ear to sound patterns, especially rhyming patterns.

4. Sound Patterns

Children's xylophone

As stated above, sound patterns are learned through rhymes, poems and songs. These patterns emerge through:

  • rhyming
  • rhythm
  • instruments
  • syllables in words
  • stress patterns in a song
  • alliteration, etc.

Patterns actually form the basis of literacy and numeracy. Learning about patterning through musical activities will help a child cope academically when learning to read, write, spell and do maths.

5. Motor Skills

Children playing, holding hands in a circle

Motor skills are extremely important for learning to read and write. They are developed in various ways during musical activities.

Fine motor skills (the small muscles) can be developed through:

Gross-motor skills (the large muscles) can be developed through:

  • Action rhymes
  • Playing with large instruments
  • Music games (e.g. musical statues)
  • Dancing

Coordination, an important skill for children, can be learned through many musical activities. Music also improves a child’s sensory development, especially when paired with a movement activity such as dancing.

6. Self-Expression

Music is a wonderful mode of self-expression for children.

Through music activities, children develop a sense of creativity and feel free to express themselves without judgment. Creative expression is an important part of a child’s development.

7. Memory Skills

Children’s songs are usually filled with repetitive phrases, which helps them to develop their memory skills.

The tune and rhythm of songs and rhymes makes it easier to memorize them. This is good for developing auditory skills as well as general memory skills, which a child will rely on throughout school and beyond.

8. General Well-Being

Child singing

Music is simply a fun activity that makes you feel good.

Children are naturally drawn to music. They are not self-conscious when singing and are not held back by fear and judgment as adults may be. They relax, sing and move freely.

In today’s stressful society, an activity that relaxes a child and promotes general well-being should be encouraged frequently.

8 Simple Music Activities for Preschoolers

Music is not just about singing. It involves activities such as rhyming songs, finger rhymes, action rhymes, listening to music, playing with instruments, body percussion, poems, dancing, musical games and stories with music.

Here are some music activity ideas for kids.

1. Nursery Rhymes and Songs

During the preschool years children enjoy learning songs and rhymes that have the following characteristics:

  • They have repeated words and phrases in them
  • There is a strong rhythm and beat in the song
  • They have melodies
  • They are about familiar topics e.g. animals and people

Preschoolers especially enjoy nonsense rhymes and poems.

Here are some fun nursery rhymes your kids will enjoy learning.

2. Finger Rhymes

Finger rhymes build a child’s fine motor skills. Children develop finger control and strength and also develop bilateral integration as they learn to coordinate their left and right hand together.

These are two of my favourite classic finger rhymes:

Two Little Dickey Birds

Two little dickey birds sitting on a wall, (both index fingers in the air, move both of them)
One named Peter, (wiggle one index finger) one named Paul (wiggle the other finger)
Fly away Peter, (draw the hand with “the Peter finger” behind your head and hide it)
fly away Paul (draw the other hand behind your head and hide it)
Come back Peter, (reverse the last action with “the Peter finger” hand)
Come back Paul. (reverse the last action with “the Paul finger” hand)

Where Is Thumbkin?

(Start with hands behind back)
Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin?
Here I am. (bring right hand to front, with thumb up)
Here I am. (bring left hand to front, with thumb up)
How are you this morning?
Very well, I thank you. (Wiggle thumbs as if they’re ‘talking’ together)
Run away. (hide right hand behind back)
Run away. (hide left hand behind back)

(Repeat rhyme with each finger: Pointer, Tall Man, Ring Man, and Pinkie)

3. Action Rhymes

Action rhymes encourage children to move their entire bodies and develop their gross motor skills. They also teach children listening skills as they need to pay attention to the words in order to follow the actions.

Here is an example:

An Action Rhyme

Raise your hands above your head,
Clap them one, two, three,
Rest them now upon your hips,
Slowly bend your knees.
Up again and stand up tall,
Put your right foot out;
Shake your fingers.
Nod your head
And twist yourself about.

4. Instruments

Expose children to different kinds of instruments and let them experiment with making sounds.

drum set

Here are some examples:

  • shakers
  • bells
  • cymbals
  • drums
  • tambourines
  • string instruments
  • wind instruments

Making instruments can be a wonderful craft activity to incorporate into music activities.

Here is a great resource of 52 instruments to make at home with your children.

5. Stories with Music

Play audiobooks for your children that have a musical soundtrack, or listen to musical stories on YouTube.

These stories will develop your child’s listening skills and are far better than watching TV as your child needs to actively listen to follow the story.

6. Poems

Listening to and saying poems is an important activity as children learn to recognize rhythm and rhyme in a sentence.

The benefits of poetry are numerous, including developing vocabulary, language, phonological awareness, mathematical concepts, a love for literacy, etc.

Try these fun fairy tale poems.

7. Dancing

Dancing is a wonderfully freeing activity. It feels natural to children as they love expressing themselves through music and movement.

Dance to music often with your children. You can move freely to the music or make your own movements for your favourite songs.

Child dancing

8. Musical Games

Play some fun music games that incorporate movement. Games such as musical statues or musical chairs are also good listening activities.

Movement forms an integral part of musical activities and should be incorporated as often as possible. In these activities, children gain all the benefits of music and simultaneously develop their motor skills.

Pin - fun music activities for your preschoolers

Joya Franklin

Sunday 20th of August 2023

Thankyou for all this information put together brief and with concrete examples


Saturday 2nd of September 2023

Thanks for giving this information

Tanja Mcilroy

Tuesday 22nd of August 2023

I'm so pleased you found this helpful!

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