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Music and Movement Supports Learning

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

WHY MUSIC? Making music with your child is one of the best ways to support their development and give them a lifelong love of music. Even if you don't think you are a good singer, it works! Children learn best from the ones they love, and singing to and with your child has powerful developmental effects.

Music is a uniquely human way of learning who we are and how to be—and it starts in the first days and years of life when the brain is developing at an incredibly fast rate. When you sing, bounce, dance, and play with music at least eight areas of your child's brain are activated at the same time and countless neural connections are being made or strengthened, forming the brain architecture upon which all learning will be built. Musical interaction with your child is brain-building!

Music is a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds. It’s something we turn to again and again to mark important life transitions, to help us cope with loss and celebrate love, and to gather in shared purpose and community. When you make music with your child, you are communicating in a new way, and the bond between you becomes stronger. Music makes every day a better day.


Children learn through play, repetition, experimentation, fun, and humor, and especially from interaction with adults and older children with whom they have a close bond. Your model is essential- and they're often watching and listening even when they might not seem to be paying attention.

Your child's development is deeply tied to your relationship and the communication between you- not just in words, but through singing, movement, and body language. When you observe them and respond back by imitating their sounds and movements, it's a brain-building musical conversation!

LANGUAGE AND LITERACY Music activities support children’s listening skills, vocabulary development, and the ability to recognize, discriminate and make sounds. Songs are filled with rhymes, alliteration, and new words.

Singing on vocables (bah, blah, wah) provides opportunities for auditory discrimination of different phonemes (the sounds that words are made up of). Through song, children are exposed to the structure (like phrasing) and sequence of sounds involved in languages. Making music together helps children learn to speak and read.

Read a recent research study article here from University of Cambridge and Trinity College Dublin

Try this! Sing a book! Find a favorite book

(especially one that rhymes) and sing it to a tune- any tune-

just make it up, be silly and have fun with it!

MATH AWARENESS Music has structure, steady beats, rhythms, and patterns. Songs have sections that repeat in predictable sequences. Music provides an experience of proportion, patterning, sequencing, and counting. When your child hears and sings songs and rhymes their brain naturally tries to decode the structure. This is math!

MOVEMENT Children need to move and it helps them learn! Toddlers and preschoolers learn differently from adults, and for them, sitting still takes so much concentration that it can make it harder to learn. Let them move and move with them! By doing songs together that have hand movements like Itsy Bitsy Spider, to full-out dance parties, moving to music supports the development of body awareness, coordination and balance, fine motor skills and muscle strength.

SELF REGULATION Children’s self-regulation capacities and emerging executive function skills of inhibitory and impulse control, attention, and working memory are developed within a song activity as they anticipate what is next, initiate a response, and then shift attention, stop, and follow.

By simply singing together face- to-face and tapping to the music, chemicals are released in the brain, resulting in decreased heart rate, blood pressure, and stress hormones. It helps both parents and kids regulate their emotions and feel calm.

Try this! Do start-and-stop activities - like freeze dance during your next family dance party!

The next time you pick up your little one and dance around the kitchen, sing a song while changing their diaper, or play in a Music Together® class, you can know that big things are happening. Inside that wonderful little body is a brain that’s sparking, changing, and learning with every note, wiggle, and bounce.

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