Exposure to music, at any age, can provide countless benefits for both the brain and general health and wellbeing. For young children, music is widely recognised to increase sensory development, improve literacy and numeracy, build co-ordination and increase vocabulary. With that in mind, you may be wondering how to introduce your child to music.
As children grow, and the brain develops, those who are exposed to music- in any form- can display many advantages. Just listening to music engages multiple areas of the brain at once, unlike other tasks where brain activity is observed in a corresponding area. And when one takes part in music making, the benefits continue to grow, with research showing that, ‘playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain’ and ’playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout’.
And it’s not just children who can reap the multiple benefits of music; there are many proven benefits for adults too. From reducing stress and anxiety to improving mood and memory, it is incredible how widespread the advantages of music stretch.
‘But I don’t have access to music tuition! How can introduce my child to music and give them these benefits when I myself don’t have a musical background?’
Well here’s the good news! Introducing your child to music doesn’t have to mean weekly tutor visits and pricey instruments. You have all the tools you need to instil a love and appreciation of music right there in your home! Here are 5 fun and easy activities to get both yourself and your children involved in music-making, and to introduce your child to music.
Give your child an introduction to rhythm by exploring syllables. Using the names of random things (such as household items) clap the syllables whilst saying the names out loud. Sounds simple…and it is!
Straightforward yet beneficial, Random things is an easy game which will provide your child with a basic awareness of syllables and phonics in everyday words, whilst allowing them to explore different rhythms. To extend this game for older children, or make it a bit more difficult, you can:
- Try clapping words or phrases without saying them out loud
- Try to clap out more complex sentences/explore different speeds for clapping the same word or phrase
- Challenge one another by having one person clap a word or phrase on repeat whilst the other claps a different word or phrase over the top
Alternatives to clapping can be tapping the palm of the hand with two fingers, patting your lap or, for the braver parent (!), striking the bottom of a pot with a wooden spoon.
Sing and Clap
Sing and Clap helps your child to explore the elements of rhythm and melody simultaneously. Encourage your child to sing a song they like and clap along to the rhythm of the words whilst they sing. This is a very good game for building confidence in singing, so try to lead by example and sing confidently (no matter how bad a singer you perceive yourself to be!).
To increase the difficulty of this game, you can encourage your child to clap a steady beat whilst singing, instead of the lyric’s syllables.
Nursery Rhymes are very good for this game but any song that your child knows well will work.
Stamp and Stomp
If your child is feeling particularly energetic, this is a nice noisy one to keep them amused! Using a ‘Call and Response’ idea, ask your child some questions and have them respond using stamps and stomps. For added fun, stamp and stomp the question!
This game encourages gross motor skills co-ordination, whilst again building awareness of syllables and phonics. For added difficulty, you can expand on the stamps and stomps and have your child pat, clap or make any noise inducing action – provided they stick to the syllables of their answer!
Examples of questions you could use (to get you started):
What is your favourite food?
Which sport do you like the best?
How are you today?
Don’t forget to emphasise the syllables!
Imagine is fabulous game for a lazy day. Simply choose a piece of music – instrumental is preferable – and ask your child to close their eyes as they listen. When the music has finished, ask your child to describe what they imagined the music to be about. This can be quite a tricky concept, especially for younger children or for children on the Autistic Spectrum, however it is by no means impossible.
Help your child to get to grips with the task by giving them examples or by giving them two different scenarios and asking them to choose which one they think is more suited to the music. Another good introduction to this game is to watch the short CBeebies programme, ‘Melody’, which is available on BBC iPlayer.
Listen and Create
Listen and Create unites Art and Music and helps your child to explore different avenues of creativity. You will need a piece of paper and some coloured pencils, pens or crayons. Choose a piece of music for your child to listen to – again it is preferable that this be an instrumental piece. Ask your child to draw whatever the music makes them think about. You may wish to let them listen to the piece all the way through before they begin to draw.
Try to allow your child as much freedom as possible for this exercise – they may simply wish to choose colours which they feel represent the music best, or they may wish to go into further details and draw a scenario. This exercise may appear more accessible to older, more able children however I personally have experienced some fantastic and very insightful results with both children of a young age and young adults with complex additional needs.
I hope that these games and activities can prove useful and enjoyable for you and your child. Music can be a thoroughly enjoyable activity for all and a fantastic vehicle for learning; these 5 games and activities are just the tip of the iceberg! If you have any questions or for further information about music education or at-home music activities to introduce your child to music, feel free to leave a comment below.