Hear the sounds, sing a song, move to the beat or hum along. These are just few activities parents and children can do together every day. Music is a powerful tool that can promote and strengthen parent-child interactions, communication and much more. Typically, families listen to music for entertainment purposes; however, as parents and caregivers further explore and integrate music in their daily lives, music provides an opportunity to enhance child development skills and family well-being.
Family support professionals can partner with parents and caregivers to integrate musical activities in the home. If parents want to further explore and integrate music in their homes, family support professionals can help them establish S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals. Emphasize that parents are the child’s first and primary teacher. Parents may also seek the input of the child, if the child is capable.
Parents will learn and understand the benefits of exploring and integrating musical activities in the home to build parent-child relationships. According to research, many areas of a child’s brain are activated when listening or playing music. Music stimulates the frontal lobe, and children learn to concentrate, develop impulse control and more. When children listen to music, make their own music or respond to music, it develops their fine and large motor skills. Encourage parents to move and respond to music with their child. Movement may include clapping, snapping, swaying, tapping, popping, rocking and more. If the child is a younger infant, parents may need to assist the infant to clap their hands, move their arms or move to the music. Home visitors may remind parents to look directly at the infant and smile when singing a song to an infant. This helps the infant with facial recognition and voice recognition.
Ask parents open-ended questions to help brainstorm and encourage collaboration in preparing for the musical activity. For example, you may ask what is the best location for the activity, when is the best time or what developmental skills will be the focus. Provide additional resources for families as needed.
When parents and children make their own instruments, this sparks creativity, critical thinking skills and more. Encourage parents to use safe, clean household items to make instruments as well as purchase inexpensive musical items, if possible. Ask parents what household items may be used and provide guidance and materials for parents and children to make their
Family support professionals may offer suggestions on how the musical activity is conducted. When a caregiver sings a song, the caregiver may incorporate the child’s name in the song. For example, instead of saying, “Where is Thumbkin?”, the parent may sing, “Where is (child’s name)?” Parents may notice a different reaction and response. Whatever the musical selection, parents should observe the child’s cognitive, social and emotional growth and development.
Family support professionals may provide developmental milestone records to help parents gain greater understanding of the child’s cognitive, social and emotional responses during musical activities. Discuss the observations with the parents and caregivers. Ask parents what they noticed about the child and about themselves during the musical activity. For example, a child may be more energetic and excited for fast, upbeat songs and may calm down and relax for slower songs. A child may also learn various cognitive skills such as patterns, counting, vocabulary words and more. As parents and family support professionals work together to create developmentally appropriate musical activities in the home, remember to record the progress.
Parents may use music to enhance daily routines, transitions, nap time and more. Caregivers with toddlers or preschoolers may establish a daily, five-minute play time with their child, whereas caregivers of infants may select a shorter time for the musical activity. Whatever the activity may be, it is important to start slowly with one activity. Do the activity for an extended period of time and allow modification as time goes on. Over time, the child and parent will learn from each other and make memorable experiences.
Parents as Teachers National Center, Inc. (2017). Exploring Music with your Child: Ways to Have Fun. Parents as Teachers.org, Retrieved from https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/parentsasteachers/ofc/index.php#/p/612.
Parents as Teachers National Center, Inc. (2015). Helping Parents Share Music with their Child. Parents as Teachers.org, Retrieved from: https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/parentsasteachers/ofc/index.php#/p/588
Port Discovery Children’s Museum. (November 2018). Five Reasons Why Music is Important for Early Childhood Development. Retrieved from: https://www.portdiscovery.org/news-room/5-reasons-why-music-important-early-childhood-development
This article is from Family Support News Brief’s May 2021 edition. The Family Support News Brief covers topics like Parents as Teachers model fidelity and training, strengthening families protective factors, prevention of child abuse, childhood injury prevention, and more.