The Music Center in Child Care

Child Care September 15, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Toddlers playing with xylophones

Music Supports Children's Development

A music center is an important part of any child care program. Listening to music, singing, playing musical instruments, and moving to music are all activities that support children's development across several different domains.

  • Language development: Children practice words and phrases in repeating patterns by listening to and singing songs. They also become aware of the rhythms of language and the patterns of poetry. These skills help them become better at understanding and producing language and prepare them to identify patterns when they begin to read.
  • Social and emotional skills: Music can provide opportunities for interaction with adults and other children, which is the foundation for relationships. Music can help children develop an understanding of people and their cultures. It also provides children with opportunities for creative expression through storytelling, puppetry, creative movement and dance, or songwriting. Music provides opportunities for turn-taking and matching up with a group's tempo and tone. These opportunities can be positive social interactions with peers and adults in which children practice social skills for conversation such as listening and responding. The music center provides a place where children can play alone or with a few other children. 
  • Cognitive development: The music center stimulates thought and imagination, as children learn the words to songs or produce their own music and creative movement. Experiencing movement helps improve listening skills. Children may enjoy recording themselves with audio or video recorders individually or in small groups so they can reflect on their musical creations and see their own skills develop.

What Teachers Should Know about Music Play

Understanding the child's role: Children need to follow certain guidelines in the music center. The following are some common rules for music and creative movement centers:

  • Treat books, puppets, music players, and instruments with care.
  • Return books, puppets, and musical instruments in the music area.
  • Keep creative movement activities in the music area to avoid disturbing children playing in other areas.
  • Use headphones when listening to music individually.

Understanding the teacher's role: Child care providers can plan the music center in a way that helps children get the most out of the music experience. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Provide a variety of music that children can listen to individually. Be sure to include headphones so children do not disturb the activities of other classmates.
  • Make puppets available to act out songs or enhance creative movement activities.
  • Give children opportunities to choose music, musical instruments, and creative movement props.
  • Introduce children to musical instruments and music players, and talk about how they work. 
  • Build in chances for children to make their own rhythm instruments, such as tambourines, maracas, and rain sticks.
  • Introduce new songs and artists to children during large or small group activities, and then make some of that music available during free play.
  • Don't limit yourself to "children's songs." Children can learn from classical, rock, folk, country, African, salsa, and many other varieties of music. Just be sure to listen to the songs before sharing them with children to ensure that lyrics are appropriate.
  • Experiment with audio or video recording children's musical moments with a tablet computer, tape recorder, or digital recorder. Children can build their observation and vocabulary skills as they revisit and talk about their own musical creations.

For more specific tips on setting up a music center, see Planning a Successful Music Center in Child Care.

For More Information

To learn more about music and other learning centers, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.