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Shared Music Experiences & Child Development

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Jamming with your toddler: how music trumps reading for childhood development, by Liam Viney

This article  by Liam Viney references a study conducted at the University of Queensland School of Music in Australia. For decades Australia has been the frontrunner in education, especially early childhood education and child development. They are on the cutting edge of new research and we would be smart to take heed.

The gist of the study and thus, the article is: Creating and sharing musical experiences with young children, in playful and informal settings, benefits the children in early development to include reading, social skills, math, and regulation of attention and emotions.  But what does that mean for the typical parents of toddlers?


These are some very simple and easy ways a parent can put Viney’s research into action to benefit their child(ren). Often times, parents are too rushed or preoccupied with life to feel as though they are capable of creating every day actions and behaviors that could truly make a huge difference in the development of their children. Hopefully, these simply suggestions will help:

  • When riding in the car, make up songs about what you see. For instance, (Sung to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb), “Now I see a great big truck, great big truck, great big truck. Now I see a great big truck; it’s red and white and blue!” If your child is verbal, you can take turns making up verses. If not, just singing the lyrics to your child will do the trick.
  • When you are cooking, designate a spot in your line of sight where your child can “create” music. Give him pots and pans and a wooden spoon. Model for him how you can make a sound and then turn him loose!
  • While dressing your toddler, focus on colors as you create a song to “Love is Blue,” “Blue, blue my dress is blue; blue is my dress, my socks are blue, too!” Change the color with each article of clothing. If a child is just learning her colors, you can help encourage learning by singing, “Red, red my shorts are _______,” and allowing your child to fill in the blank with the correct color.
  • When your toddler is in the highchair or booster seat, ready for lunch, you might sing, “Sam is eating meatballs, meatballs and spaghetti. One, two, three and he gobbles it up!” to the tune of “Ring Around the Rosey”.
  • When it’s time to pick up toys, Barney’s “Clean Up Song” is great for motivating little ones to “do their share”. You can personalize it by singing, “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere! Clean up, clean up, Jennifer will do her share!”
  • To help with bedtime, try singing your own version of “Old Macdonald”: “Now it’s time to go to sleep, I am very tired. My day was fun now I must rest. I am very tired. First I took my bath, put my jammies on, brushed my teeth, said my prayers, next we sing our bedtime song. Now it’s time to go to sleep, I am very tired.” Remember, repetition is the mother of all learning  . . . keep it simple and repetitive.

I hope these simple examples will get you started on a deliberate path to creating musical experiences with your little ones. After reading Viney’s article, you will have the foundational research behind such activities. These suggestions will provide you with practical application for your everyday life. Of course, my suggestions are just the beginning. You are only limited by your own imagination and creativity! Have fun making music with your children and enjoy watching them GROW!

2 thoughts on “Shared Music Experiences & Child Development

  1. Hi Mary, I enjoyed this particular post. Sail is already responsive to music, I can tell it will be a big part of his life!


    1. Thanks, Ann! I love that research is finally affirming what so many parents have known all along. The specifics of this article that thrilled me highlighted the benefits of fun, informal and shared music experiences with young children. No threat to non-musicians. Everybody can make up songs with their children and have fun together! Good stuff!

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