Ellie Tetrick is an early childhood music educator, and has been teaching music to parents, babies, toddlers and preschoolers for more than twenty years. Currently, she teaches music at Heartworks, Small Wonders and St. Michael’s Early Learning Center. She also teaches her own program “Little Music Makers” (for ages 0 – 5) on Saturday mornings at the Colchester Meeting House. Ellie led a sing-a-long and music-making session at the Let's Grow Kids launch event last April. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sing for Success!
How many times have you witnessed a newborn baby, arms and legs flailing about as he fervently cries, suddenly grow still when someone holds him close and begins singing a gentle lullaby? Why does this happen? Because when an infant hears a song, he is now experiencing some order—something that makes a bit of sense in his chaotic, new, strange world.
Babies are often overloaded with countless forms of stimuli that they don't understand—random sounds, lights, shapes, people, textures, sensations—that create an overwhelming sensory experience. When a lullaby is introduced amidst that cacophony, even though the newborn does not understand the words, she experiences the melodic sound as a departure from the confusion—a little order counteracting the clutter of stimuli.
Singing, dancing and playing music are innate to a young child. Music is how little ones learn language, form close relationships and learn about the world around them. And in my 20+ years of working with young children as a music educator, I have never met a baby, toddler or preschooler who didn’t love music!
The benefits of music education in the early developmental years are not only fun for a little one, but also contain essential learning:
- Finger plays (nursery rhymes that use hand movements to bring alive the words) such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “Three Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed” enhance the development of fine motor skills (such as using the fingers and wrists to write or grasp small objects).
- Movement songs, such as “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” increase gross motor skill development (like rolling over, jumping or sitting up).
- Peek-a-boo songs help babies understand object permanence (knowing that an object continues to exist even though it can't be seen).
- Dancing with a baby in front of a mirror helps stimulate depth perception and spatial awareness (the baby learns about her proximity and physical relationship to objects in space).
- A song such as “Put Your Finger on Your Nose” helps a toddler learn his body parts.
- Young children learn by repetition, so with each repeated singing of each song, finger play or knee bounce, that child is learning to memorize words, learn sequencing, recognize patterns, and gain a greater understanding of the world around her.
- Bouncing your baby or toddler on your knee while singing, “Up and down in my little red wagon” helps your child feel the rhythm of the song, stimulate language development, increase balance and core strength, and develop self-esteem and well-being.
It’s no wonder your child will clap her hands and shout with delight, “AGAIN!” when the song is over!
While you can give your child all of the benefits of singing, dancing and playing musical instruments at home, enrolling and taking part with your child in a regular music class offers additional enrichment. Participating in a music and movement class not only enhances your child’s social development but also offers a group musical experience, builds a sense of community, and helps a child learn that they are part of a greater whole.
In the class setting, your young child can be a part of a circle, learn to take turns and also learn to listen to a teacher—all valuable lessons, especially in the early years. A preschooler taking part in movement songs and activities and learning to control his or her body can only lead to success once that child reaches kindergarten.
When all is said and done, what is most important to your baby, toddler or preschooler is that they spend their musical time with the people they love. Dancing with dad, singing the ABC song with Grandma or Grandpa, or tender snuggles with mom as she sings a lullaby, offer experiences that will build a child’s trust, affection and compassion—as well as memories that will last a lifetime.