Music Can Help Develop Your Toddler

Written by Shankar Mahadevan Academy on 01 March 2014

A study by the Department of Education, Government of UK , titled “The Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary Education Project”(March 2012), has reported that practicing stimulating activities such as singing, reading, arts and crafts and games in the early growing years, can make a marked difference in a child’s social, cognitive and communicative skills. The Project has been following 3,000 children between the ages of 3 and 14 since 1996 to try to discover what factors lead to a child’s success in later ages. Research revealed that toddlers and preschoolers whose parents spent quality time doing activities like singing nursery rhymes, playing make believe games, and doing simple craft projects, were found to be better attuned for greater success and academic achievements.
The power of song has been used from ancient days when oral tradition was the only means of handing down knowledge and information from one generation to another. Singing has multiple benefits. It can be used to soothe and calm, to distract children during stressful or difficult moments, and as the study suggests, it can also be used as an valuable educational tool. With parents being a child’s first and most enduring educator, they have the unlimited opportunity to focus on their children’s learning when they are young and singing is the most easiest and effective way to help a child excel in later life.

10 effective ways where singing can be used a tool to build your child’s social, cognitive and communicative skills:

There are no limitations when it comes to incorporating singing into your child daily routine. Singing is easy and can be incorporated whenever an opportunity presents itself, from bedtime to washing hands to singing a prayer song before eating. Examples of other daily routines where songs can be used include diaper changing/going potty, getting dressed, getting in the car, cleaning up the toys, and putting on shoes. Developing a routine for songs has a dual advantage, as it not only gives a child the advantage of listening to the lyrics repeatedly but the monotony of the daily routine is also broken when songs are used.
Lauren Lowry, a Certified Speech-Language Pathologist and Staff Member of Hanen, an organization that focuses on developing language and literacy skills in preschool children through family-focused early language intervention, summarizes a list of guidelines that can be used by parents who wish to use singing as a developmental tool. 

1. Choose songs that interest your child: Take time to learn about your child’s area of interest. It is crucial that whether it is a “made-up” song or a well-known children’s tune that you follow your child’s lead and sing something that encourages your child to participate with you.
2. Be face to face while singing: Always make sure that you face the child when singing. This will allow your child to make eye contact with you, and learn from your facial expression, actions, and words.
3. Always sing clearly and slowly: Singing is not a chore that can be hurried. Sing slowly and enunciate each word clearly to help your child hear the words and learn the actions.
4. Be sure to include opportunities that call for your child’s participation: Depending on your child’s age, stage of development and interests try to include appropriate opportunities that would make your child an active participant. Your child could bang on a drum (or bang a wooden spoon on a kitchen pot!). You could alternatively make him do some of the actions during the song or you could try to make him sing a few key words during the song.
5. Pause and wait: Pausing and waiting during key moments in the song, helps a child gain confidence. A good place to pause and wait is at the end of each line of a song. Try pausing before you say the last word and see if your child can fill it in. For example, when singing “Baa baa black sheep”, you might try pausing at “have you any….” (wool). Wait and look expectantly at your child, and he may try to say “wool”. If not, fill it in for him and maybe he will try next time. 
6. Help your toddler perform the actions in the song: Do the actions along with your child for each song. If your child is not able to do a certain action, take your child’s hands and help him do the action. However, if your child resists this or does not enjoy it, do the action yourself and let your child participate in his own way.
7. Substitute whenever possible: For older children, who are comfortable with singing many of the words in a song, try substituting a silly or different word in the song to catch your child’s attention. For example, if your child already knows “Old Macdonald had a farm”, you could try a new version of “Old MacDonald had a zoo...” If your child is interested, he can help you think of different zoo animals to insert in the song (eg. “and at his zoo he had a tiger, lion, elephant, etc…..”).
8. Repeat the song: Young children often have favorite songs that they wish to sing repeatedly. This repetition helps them learn the lyrics and understand what the words mean. Parents should not tire of repeating a particular song. 
9. Use actions and facial expressions to help your child understand: When you wish to introduce a song that has complicated lyrics or new vocabulary for your child, try to ensure that your toddler understands what these words mean. You can use actions and facial expression when you sing to help clarify the meaning. You could also try using pictures or play-acting to get cross the meaning. For example, if your child enjoys the song “London Bridge” and “bridge” is a new word for your child, you could try building bridges out of blocks or Lego to introduce the concept of bridge.
10. Make up new songs: As much as children love familiar songs, they love the idea of a new song made up especially for them. This is not as difficult as it seems, for you could use an already familiar tune with new words appropriate to the present situation. For example, you could take the tune of “Row, row, row your boat…” and make up a song like “Baby, baby goes to school...” to introduce the concept of school.

Make singing a part of your child’s everyday life:

Music, especially singing, has numerous benefits for children of all ages. Older children who participate in regular singing sessions have better memory power, improved concentration and enhanced social skills. Allowing your child to participate in a choir, singing group, or enrolling them in singing lessons can help them grow into successful individuals with well-developed social, cognitive, and communicative skills. 
Celebrated singer, musician and Indian film music composer, Shankar Mahadevan has founded an online music academy, to impart quality music education to children and adults all over the world. Being socially minded and mission oriented, he established the academy as an effort to spread music to all those who wish to learn. Here is what he says on why he started the online academy: “I believe that if something interests you and is good to do, then surely you must do it really well. Anything to do with music is important to me. I set up the Shankar Mahadevan Academy because there are thousands of people who love music -- Hindustani, Carnatic, Devotional, Film music -- and want to learn it, but don't know where to go. Many fans and well-wishers internationally had been asking me to help them learn music. So I thought, why not make world-class music education available to people online, in the comfort of their own personal spaces? That's why I set up the academy. My online music academy is a small but sincere effort to help aspiring people learn music and revel in their talent.”
The Academy being online, is convenient for busy parents and children who don’t wish to travel far to attend a singing class. The Academy also offers the option of online interactive classes with trained music teachers or self-study packs that one can use to study at one’s own pace. All courses are inclusive of the specially designed OM (Online Music) books that make singing fun and easy to learn. To find out more visit 

References: en/How-to-Sing-with-Toddlers-The-Hanen-Way.aspx