In previous articles (Music & Communication Development and A Further Note to Music & Communication Development) I have talked about the many benefits of exposing your child to music from a very early age. Singing and being sung to helps to develop the following fundamentals of communication:
- Maintaining concentration – singing is very engaging and therefore easy to pay attention to for a long time.
- Anticipating what’s coming next – music and songs lead the brain to expect or look for the next notes in the melody. Songs, especially nursery rhymes and the like, often have a predictable, repeating pattern of words and/or actions which makes it easy for a child to learn to anticipate what’s coming next as well as supporting maintenance of concentration.
- Taking turns in communication by learning to listen and then respond within the song.
- Using non verbal communication and eye contact – many children’s songs have accompanying actions which encourages the development of watching another person, copying them and co-ordinating gestures with spoken language.
- Vocabulary development through repetition of words and use of rhyme.
- Sentence development – hearing the same sentence structure over and over again is essential for learning to say new and longer sentences.
- Phonological awareness – awareness of alliteration, rhyme, syllables and rhythms are essential skills for later learning to read and write as it supports the ability to break words down into sounds, work out what those sounds are and put them together again to make new words.
- Sequencing – Like music, all language follows a sequence whether it’s the order of sounds in words, words in sentences or information in a story.
Experimenting with musical instruments and melodies is just as important as singing and adds extra sensory dimensions to the experience of music through the senses of touch, proprioception and vision. Like singing, playing instruments supports the development of many fundamental communication skills like:
- Concentration – listening to music and sound is fun and children will often manage to maintain concentration for longer to an activity if music is involved.
- Listening – to sing the right words at the right pitch or to copy a tune or rhythm with an instrument, you need to listen carefully and discriminate between the sounds you hear.
- Self expression and creativity – music is inherently creative and making up songs and melodies is a fun way to express yourself without necessarily using spoken words.
- Memory – remembering tunes and rhythms exercises auditory memory which is essential for learning new vocabulary and language structures. When we hear new language, we need to hold what we hear in our auditory memories so that we can analyse it and commit it to long term memory.
- Pitch awareness – intonation in spoken communication is made up of variations in pitch and different ‘tunes’ have different meanings. For example, a rising ‘tune’ in a sentence usually means that it is a question. Music helps to develop awareness of pitch variations.
- Rhythm – like music, all spoken language has a rhythm to it. Within words, we have rhythms in the form of syllables and stress patterns. Sentences also have rhythm in their stress patterns. Being able to recognise and repeat rhythms is essential for natural communication. Being able to break sounds into smaller chunks using rhythm as we do with syllables, is essential for learning to read and spell. Music helps us to learn these skills.
Above all, music is FUN! It’s easy to engage in a bit of music at home even if, like me, you are not the most talented singer. If you feel you’d like to add a more social dimension to your child’s musical experience, there are a variety of excellent children’s music classes available in Edinburgh and Lothian from organisations like Monkey Music and Caterpillar Music.