Musical Play: Benefits and Activities

Mar 15, 2023

Wiggling, squirming, swaying, or dancing, when a favourite song comes on, little kids have got to move! It’s no great revelation that babies and toddlers love music – both moving to the beat, and making their own with whatever’s at hand! When it comes to babies and music, the two go hand in hand! In fact, if it seems like babies and toddlers are wired to love music from the start, that’s because musical play is an important part of early childhood development.

The Benefits of Musical Play

Brain Benefits

Aside from the joy on their faces and in their movements, there are many benefits to allowing your child to shake, rattle, clap, or drum to their own beat. Not only does making music help the mind and body learn to work together, it stimulates thinking and expressive skills and enhances creativity. What’s more, musical play can encourage socialization and builds self-esteem – just look at their faces light up when you applaud!

Furthermore, some studies suggest music-making may also improve a function of the brain called “neuroplasticity.”  This is the brain’s ability to create new pathways as a result of new experiences. In addition, music might also improve the synaptic connections between brain cells. This, in turn, is thought to have an impact on social and cognitive development.

Body Benefits

But it’s not just the brain that benefits; music boosts physical development as well! Dancing to a beat is a form of active play that helps to strengthen arms, legs, and trunk muscles. Instruments as simple as a basic xylophone or drum promote fine motor skill development. This helps prepare their little fingers for things like writing and drawing. Even singing gives the mouth and lungs a good workout.

Emotional Benefits

Finally, just as music can have a strong impact on your mental or emotional state, it can have a similar impact on kids. Music has the ability to lift a toddler’s spirits, or calm a cranky baby. This helps set the stage for a lifetime of emotional self-regulation.

Musical Play Activities for Babies and Toddlers

Is your kiddo starting to bop along to their favourite tunes? Here are a few fun and easy ways to encourage them.

Encouraging Musical Play: 0-12 Months

You are your baby’s entire world, and your voice is music to their ears! So, start singing, listening, dancing, and moving together as soon as you bring your bundle of joy home. Over those first months they’ll quickly join in and get more involved as they grow stronger. It won’t be long before they’re making music of their own!

  • Sing and sway: This is probably the most natural thing in the world! Simply sing or play your favourite song while holding your baby, and sway to the rhythm! Move slower for slow songs and faster as the beat increases. And don’t be afraid to play the same song over and over – babies love repetition!
  • Musical mobile: Mobiles that have a musical component help to stimulate baby’s vision and hearing at the same time. This is especially great for newborn babies. Hang the mobile low enough that it can be seen, but far enough away that it cant be grabbed. Remove it at around 5 months, or when baby shows signs to being able to grab it.
  • Musical toys: Simple, homemade instruments, like egg shakers, maracas, or chimes help babies learn cause and effect, What’s more, they offer visual stimulation and fine motor skill practice.
  • Call-and-response: You shake a rattle and then show them how to shake on back. Then you tap a drum three times and encourage them to do the same. It make take a little bit for them to understand, but once they do, you’ll be the one expected to respond with music!
  • Kitchen drums: For older babies, try makeshift drum sets, like classic pots and pans, or empty (and clean!) ice cream containers.

Musical Play: 12-24 Months

Sing-a-longs, dance parties, and little serious composition are the order of the day for young toddlers. Now that they’re starting to walk and talk, they’re ready to take music to the next level!

  • Instruments: Young toddlers love making their own music! Go for more interactive music-makers, like drums, maracas, horns, and xylophones over music boxes.
  • Freeze dance: Play some music and get your toddler dancing, but tell them they have to freeze when the music stops. It’s silly fun, but also help teach self-regulation.
  • Sing interactive songs: Try music that pairs hand or body movements with the lyrics, like “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or “Hokey Pokey.”
  • Activity songs: Sing or play specific songs for specific activities, like cleaning up toys, brushing teeth, or getting ready for bed. The music will quickly become associated with the activity, and they may be more enthusiastic about participating.

Musical Play: 24-36 Months

As your toddler grows and their language and communication skills improve, you may begin introducing more complex musical play ideas,

  • Play what you feel: Give your toddler an instrument and ask them to make music that matches different feelings. Ask them to play a happy, or sad, or even excited tune.
  • Dance match: Play music with varying tempos and have your toddler try to make their dance moves match the beat. You can join in too!
  • Name that tune: Hun or whistle a song their familiar with and see if they can guess whay it is.
  • Scarf dance: Place a tissue or small scarf on your toddler’s head and crank up the music. The rules are simple: they can do any dance moves that come into their mind, as long as the tissue or scarf stays on their head!

Closing Thoughts

There’s no denying that music plays a major role in early childhood development. In fact, many studies even suggest that children introduced to music at a younger age have, on average, better life outcomes, including better grades and social skills, than those introduced to music later in life.

Are you looking to get your little one started in the world of music early? Check out The Music Studio’s Children’s Music Classes and sign up today!