“Music can change the world because it can change people” -Bono
Recently, I gave a talk to the Nashville Area Association for the Education for Young Children (NAAEYC) to about 30 early childhood educators. I spoke on how music is a great tool to engage holistic learning methods and how they can be sorted in four domains of child development: Cognitive/Academic, Communication, Sensorimotor, and Social/Emotional. Not only for educators, within the Music Together classes I teach and with children I see in therapy, using music to target these four areas of brain development help support cognition and physical growth. Families can also incorporate this model of learning into their own music making time with their children. Here is the breakdown.
- Cognitive / Academic: We use cognition to localize sound, focus attention, and store facts and events into our memory. Infants and young children are beginning to form many neuron pathways in their brains as they learn concepts. Academic concepts include, recognizing shapes, counting numbers and putting letters together to make words. Singing songs to aid in memory retention has long been used in early childhood education. What melody do you hear in your head when you think of singing, ABCDEFG…..? When did you learn that song? Think about it.
- Communication: Music is a great tool to practice emerging verbal skills, make requests and encourage back and forth conversation. Hello and goodbye songs naturally teach appropriate social behavior. Songs that ask questions and give answers are simple ways to encourage and model back and forth communication. When singing to your child, try singing one phrase and then stop and see if your young child will fill in the next word or phrase back to you. This is a playful yet meaningful way to encourage communication skills.
- Sensorimotor: We all know our four senses: touch, sight, hearing, and tasting. Other more complex senses include: vestibular and proprioceptive movement. These latter senses help us know where our bodies are in space, for balance and stability and how we relate to other people and objects around us. Movement songs and activities help children regulate their senses in a way that is playful and repetitive for continued practice. When singing “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, your child is actually learning, body awareness and gaining a sense of balance. Gradually speeding up the song each time you sing and do the motions with your child is not only a fun challenge, but a natural push for your child’s emerging physical skills and abilities to become stronger.
- Social / Emotional: Music helps reinforce positive social and emotional skills. Songs can encourage positive helping behaviors towards other people and peers. Group music making encourages working together to form a dance, drum a beat, share ideas, and singing parts to a song. Learning songs that help express appropriate expression of feelings is huge for a child’s development. The emotional qualities of songs lend themselves to appropriate expression of feelings, can teach a child to self sooth, and gain sense of security.
Here is a list of songs in the current Fiddle Collection used in Music Together classes this fall season. I have listed them under the four domains of child development. Some songs may have dual purposes, but for this list, I have used each song only once.
- Cognitive / Academic: Apples and Cherries, Here Is the Beehive, Sounds of the Fall, and Old King Cole
- Communication: Can You Do This? Hello Everybody, Goodbye So Long Farewell, Mississippi Cats, Crawdad , Going to Boston, and Sweet Potato
- Sensorimotor: Ram Sam Sam, Butterfly, I’ve Got the Rhythm in My Head, Los Fandangos, Marching and Drumming, and Walking Song
- Social / Emotional: No More Pie (Blues), This Little Light of Mine, Shady Grove, Shenandoah, Singing Everyday, Bela Boya (energy outlet), Lauren’s Waltz (playing musical instruments together) and Hine’ Ma Tov (group dancing).
Remember, children follow by example and will enjoy and appreciate music more if the grown-ups they love participate too! See how you can incorporate music into your family life by keeping these four domains in mind. You can choose to work on one area per week, use one song to hit several domains at once, or sing for 20-30 minutes with your child every day using a variety of songs to hit all the domains. You don’t even have to tell your child the reasoning behind why you are doing this song, he will enjoy it just because it’s fun! You, however, will know there is a whole lot of learning going on behind that “fun” music making!
Also, take your child to a Music Together class. If your child is working on therapeutic goals within these domains, inquire about how music therapy can help support your child’s progress. New Music Together family classes and Music Together within Therapy begin this January 2016, so register early to reserve your child’s place in a class! Click here to register. Each of the nine collections of Music Together music incorporate songs that meat the needs of each of these domains of child development.
Next Month I will share some online resources that I frequently use within my music therapy and Music Together practice. Keep an eye out for it in your inbox in December! Be sure to sign up for the In Harmony Music of Middle Tennessee newsletter to receive all the latest news in child development and music making right to your inbox!