Spend any amount of time with a toddler, and one thing becomes abundantly clear: toddlers like to move. They seem to be bundles of energy, darting from one activity to the next, a constant stream of motion and noise until they collapse — often falling asleep wherever they happen to be when their activity stops. Knowing the impact of music on a child’s future development, is there a way to encourage a toddler’s love and appreciation for music — in spite of their short attention span?
1. Go with the flow
Toddlers are always moving, and they naturally engage in musical activities as they learn to speak and explore the world around them. Take advantage of this unique — and albeit exhausting — stage of toddler development, and introduce music to their world. Demonstrate how music-filled life can be by adding musical elements during the day. Tap on different surfaces to demonstrate how various sounds are made. Make clicking and clacking sounds with your mouth, point out sounds that occur during the day, and mimic them. Introducing children to music doesn’t have to be formal. If you make it a natural part of the day, your child will start to pick out the musical tones in their environment on their own.
Incorporate songs into the daily activities of the toddler. A variety of songs lend themselves to those things children will already be doing: cleaning up, brushing their teeth, and driving down the road. Special songs for the holidays are also important tools in sparking a child’s love of music. Learning how to relate words to music and how it can be an integral part of the day not only helps children’s cognitive development, it introduces them to how music can be fun.
3. Stockpile instruments
The amount of noise that a toddler produces — even without instruments — can be impressive. Putting a musical instrument into those small hands can be startling (and possibly deafening). However, if done correctly, it can start your child on the path to developing a lifelong passion for music and lead to an interest in learning to play a musical instrument. Obviously, no one is advocating that you hand your toddler a violin, but there are instruments that they can — and should — be exposed to whenever possible. Rhythm instruments are widely available, and they can be excellent tools to teach children about different sounds and musical concepts. Another great source of musical instruments is the recycling bin. Toilet paper tubes, oatmeal containers, and rubber bands can all be upcycled into a homemade band that is not only good for the environment, but also for your child. Making — and playing — instruments can foster a new type of musical expression in your toddler.
4. Turn up the radio
Having a toddler doesn’t mean that your music library has to be completely comprised of sing-alongs. Introduce your child to the music you prefer. Children learn by imitation, and your love of techno-funk might just catch your child’s ear. Regardless of whether they seem to appreciate your musical stylings, showing your child that adults appreciate music can be important in developing their enjoyment of sound. Additionally, exploring a new type of music with your child may introduce both of you to a different style of music that you had previously ignored. Next time you’re in the car, hit the “Seek” button on the radio and listen to whatever song comes on. You never know what great music you may discover.
5. Take a class
While signing up for a “Baby and Me” music class may seem cliché, the reality is that allowing your children to socialize with others who are close in age in an environment that is based around music is a great idea. Music is closely tied to movement for toddlers, so attending a class that offers new sounds, experiences, and movements will help to solidify music in their world. Many public libraries offer free classes or musical performances specifically designed for toddlers that allow and encourage children to get up and dance to the music. Making music fun is key to teaching your children about the beauty of it.
While there are those who advocate for music lessons for toddlers, it is not necessary to use such formal methods to introduce your children to music. Exploring a love of music together — even if you are not particularly musically inclined yourself — can open up a world of possibilities. Yes, there are psychological and educational benefits to musical training, but they come later. For now, you can teach your children that music is simply another way to have fun and express yourself.