Music is an important part of the child care curriculum. Young children love sound. Music activities and experiences help children practice important skills, including thinking, language, motor coordination and understanding emotions.
Music is a powerful tool that helps children learn new thinking skills. When children play with musical instruments, they explore cause and effect. They can see that pressing a key makes a sound. Additionally, they learn to pay attention to changes in sound, noting for example that certain keys sound deeper than others. Exploring musical instruments also helps children learn how different instruments work and the sounds they create. Inviting guest musicians to the child care program is an effective way of introducing children to unfamiliar musical instruments.
Singing songs is a powerful way for young children to practice language. When children sing, they practice pronouncing words and putting together sentences. Learning the lyrics to songs is also an effective way to remember information. How many people first learned the alphabet by singing the ABC song? Our brains remember language better when it is set to music.
Songs with motions help children practice fine-motor coordination. Doing the finger motions of a song like "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" or a finger play like "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" helps children practice their hand and finger control -- a skill necessary for writing and handling small objects. Dancing to music also helps children perfect their control of their arms and legs. Music and dance are fun and help children be playful with each other and with their child care providers.
Listening to music can help children learn about emotions. Music can also be soothing and comforting. Remember how babies love lullabies. Child care providers might play classical music and help the children label the sounds as scary, sad or happy. Children can also connect music with emotions by drawing or painting a picture of their feelings as they listen to a certain musical selection.
Music and singing can help children follow the routine of the child care program. Clean-up songs alert children that it's time to put away their toys and move to another activity. Child care providers can use songs to signal a transition from one activity to another, or to keep children interested and occupied while they are waiting for the next activity. Playing quiet music is a clear signal for nap time. Loud, energetic music can get children up and moving or help them use up energy before they settle down to a quieter task.
Music is not just an "extra" in child care. Listening to music, singing songs and playing instruments provide learning opportunities and make both children and child care providers feel good. Look for creative ways to include music in child care programs for children of all ages.
Music is an important part of the child care curriculum because it creates a wide range of benefits to children. If you are looking for fun music activities that encourage movement, check out the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care Hands-on Activities Database. To make sure you are using the right music in your child care facility, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: