Did you know that musical play is associated with a multitude of developmental benefits? Read on to learn about the 10 amazing benefits of musical play, and why you should sing and play musically with your kids every day!

Why is musical play so important?

Because making music with your kids is one of the absolute BEST things you can do for them. Music promotes development in multiple domains. And recent studies show that regular, informal musical play even trumps shared reading in developmental benefits! WOW!

Studies show that informal music-making in the home, by the age of five, leads to better:

  • literacy
  • numeracy
  • social skills
  • attention and emotion regulation

Singing and making music are among the most enjoyable learning activities for children and are an amazing method of building and reinforcing skills. It really is one of the absolute BEST things you can do for kids, with benefits that last a lifetime! And the best part? You don’t have to have a great singing voice or play an instrument to have an impact. Plus, all you have to do is…PLAY!

Just Play

Accumulating research shows that children don’t even have to take part in formal music lessons to experience brain changes and enjoy possible benefits of training in other areas in life. What does this mean? It means, just include musical play in each day, start early (birth), and your kids will reap the benefits for a lifetime!

One mother shared: “Honestly, as a parent myself, some of the most memorable times I have singing with my kids has nothing to do with how in tune we are (we get pretty off-key sometimes, let me tell you!) and everything to do with the connection we make with each other by singing together. In fact, the crazier we are as a family, the more we let go and connect.”  

Way to go, Mamma!

Active Participation is Key

Listening, watching, or singing along to music is good, but it’s not enough… The true power of music lies in active participation. Children need to actively participate in music making to reap the most benefit. And, as with most aspects of parenting, there is no substitute for your personal involvement and the unique blend of creativity, sound, and face-to-face interaction that comes with music-making together!

It Doesn't Matter How You Sound

If you are shy about singing with your kids, don’t be. Remember, your kids don’t care how you sound (at least the younger ones ;). They WANT you to play and sing-along WITH them. The benefits far outweigh the investment so, toss aside any discomfort and, JUST DO IT!

Benefits of Musical Play

i.e., active musical engagement

#1: Music helps develop language, numeracy, and literacy skills.

Music, quite naturally, provides opportunities to practice sounds, patterns, math concepts, and auditory discrimination, which are important in the development of language, numeracy, and literacy skills.

#2: Music improves and enhances communication skills.

Singing and musical play encourages listening, as well as encouraging children to express their emotions, and sharpens their ability to communicate.

Researchers have shown that from about two months of age babies already start to interact with our singing. At birth, your baby recognizes your voices and relies on them until their vision becomes more developed. The calming effect of singing on new babies is so strong that it is known to improve heart rate, respiratory rate, sleep, feeding patterns and weight gain in pre-mi babies.

#3: Music enhances physical development.

Musical play helps children learn and develop gross and fine motor skills, and improves balance and coordination.

#4: Music helps develop cognitive skills.

Musical play stimulates different patterns of brain development. It develops and enhances focus and memory, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and conceptual tasks, and helps them pay attention for longer periods. Clinical research has confirmed that a child’s brain grows faster when learning music early on in life. Dr. Robert Zatorre, who is a director at the International Laboratory for Brain Music and Sound Research said that training is more effective at early ages because certain aspects of brain anatomy are more sensitive to changes at those time points. We all know that the brain is growing and developing rapidly in the first years of life so, all the more reason to include musical play in your children’s lives early on. This doesn’t mean that being involved in music later won’t be of benefit. It just means that the greatest benefits are derived from starting early and continuing through childhood.

#5: Music enhances socio-emotional development and connection.

Through music-making, kids develop social-emotional skills such as better self-control, self-regulation, and self-confidence. Musical play also enhances the connection between family members and others. When you and your kids enjoy music together, you develop a stronger bond with each other. One father remarked: “Singing my daughter to sleep every night gives me a tremendous opportunity to bond with her. Dads can’t breastfeed, so we don’t have a built-in mechanism for soothing and connecting with our kids. We have to put ourselves out there, find our own rituals.”

#6: Music brings order and security.

My brother once told me that after my niece was born that sometimes when she was laid down to go to sleep that she would, as most babies do, cry, but that when he got out his guitar and sang and played for her, she stopped. Soothing tunes played or sung during sleep time, or when they may be upset, help children calm down. Similarly, music can also be used to lift the spirit.

#7: Music fosters creativity and promotes happiness.

Children love music and play. Enjoyment and laughter are essential to wellness and wellbeing. Musical play promotes the release of endorphins, which make us happier. Happy music and happy feelings promote more divergent thinking, a key element of creativity. Learning and composing music is itself a creative process.

#8: Music encourages early brain development.

As we discussed earlier, the early years of childhood is a period of rapid development. The earlier a child is exposed to music, the more effective the brain responds to stimulation. Music ignites all areas of child development. Regular, active musical participation really is one of the VERY BEST things for your kids. Early childhood is a time when children learn primarily through the magical process of play. If there is a rich musical environment, there will be a continuous and even richer spiral of exposure to other new elements. While informal musical-play is sufficient for early developmental years if you want to take it a step further, design and choose activities to support specific developmental goals.

#9: Music brings joy and lasting memories.

It is nap time, and two-and-a-half-year-old Benjamin is wriggling on his bed, trying to get comfortable. “Sing my song,” he says to his mom. His mom slowly starts to sing a song she made up several months ago, just for Benjamin. “I love you, Benjamin, oh yes I do! I love you, Benjamin, tis true, tis true. When you’re not with me, I’m blue, oh Benjamin, I love you!” She watches Benjamin curl under his blanket, his eyes heavy, go to sleep.

I bet you have songs you remember with fondness…Not only because of the song themselves but, probably because they are surrounded by memories as well. When my first few nieces came along, I made up a song to a phrase from the book, “Love You Forever,” by Robert Munsch. This became a song I sang anytime they had sleep-overs with their favorite auntie or said goodbye, which goes like this: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, forever and ever, my nieces and nephews you’ll be.” And my nieces and nephews, of course, sing to me, “forever and ever, aunt Amy you’ll be. My oldest nieces, now eleven and thirteen, still remember this song and sing it with me, to this day, along with any and all of my other nieces and nephews that have and continue to come along. 

The pleasure of sharing music builds connections, offers a joyful and rewarding learning experience, and builds lasting memories.

#10: Musical Play Benefits You Too!

For all those that think they wasted their time by taking music lessons then quitting as a child, think again. It’s been proven that early musical training has a lasting, positive effect on the brain.

But does that mean you are completely left out if didn’t get the musical exposure and training you needed at a young age? No. Studies show that even if you have never picked up an instrument before, that you will still reap benefits from playing. Playing a musical instrument brings improvements in the brain that last into the golden years, even if there has been a span of non-musical playing time. This is because music training has a profound and lasting influence on the brain, helping create neural connections that last a lifetime.

And there you have it. 10 amazing reasons why you should make music with your kids, even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, every day.

Learn more on my blog and my youtube!

Written by Dr. Amy Nielsen

Written by Dr. Amy Nielsen

Founder of Musical Play Day

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