Music is a huge part of the learning puzzle for toddlers, so it’s fortunate that they just love to shake what their mumma gave ’em!
Research shows that making music with your toddler between the ages of two and three can actually be more beneficial than reading them a book. A good ol’ jam session with your toddler can boost their motor skills, kickstart their maths and even help them tap into feelings like empathy.
The simple act of singing songs and having a boogie is key to so many amazing skills – so we had a chat to one of Australia’s favourite entertainers to find out more.
Music teaches toddlers amazing life skills
Mum’s Grapevine had a chat to Sam, who not only is one of the nation’s best-loved children’s entertainers but also studied music education at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
One of the most beautiful things about childhood is that little ones learn simply by enjoying themselves. Sam Moran, who’s spent his adult life entertaining and teaching children through music, says with very little effort you can ramp up your toddler’s learning.
“Children learn through play first and foremost,” Sam explained to Mum’s Grapevine. “They learn best through play when they don’t even realise that they’re learning and I guess they’re just having a good time and they’re playing games.”
Think mathematics doesn’t count until your kid can count (pardon the pun)? Think again! The simple act of popping on some music can open up the world of maths and science.
“Even just singing a song while clapping along, you’re activating the mathematics rhythm section of the brain,” said Sam. “Music is pattern recognition, which is something that then persists through into maths learning and science learning as well.”
It’s often said that children are like sponges, so toddlerhood is a great time to help their memories kick into gear. Without too much effort, little ones will be able to remember the words to songs, giving their language skills a boost.
The flow of a song can also be part of their memory learning.
“Putting on a song and actually dancing with them in time with the beat so they can start identifying where the beat is in the song.”
3. Motor skills
Toddlers are going through huge developmental milestones, and that means they need to be using the muscles that will help them, later on, to write and coordinate their bodies.
“They’re actually then working gross motor skills by dancing along to a song. If it’s a song that has hand actions, then they’re doing fine motor skills. But to them, they’re just experiencing music and having fun.”
Toddlers can be emotional little creatures, and that’s just fine – they are growing at the rate of knots! Incredibly, music can help them tap into their more sensitive side, by teaching them how important it is to understand how others are feeling.
“Structured music learning at that toddler age actually increases empathy in children all throughout their lives. Because of that social interaction that music has and the interaction between the parents and the child and even other friends … it inspires that empathy.”
Toddlers can be creative with just about anything (crayons on a wall, bum cream on their face), but honing this creativity through music is just as important (and far less messy!).
The key is to make sure you’re a part of the fun. A study of Aussie found that parents taking part in music-making with their toddlers is crucial to the learning process.
“The easiest way is to bring that fun to it. It may feel silly but every parent does silly things with their children behind closed doors all the time.”
Pump up the jams!
Of course one of the best reasons to make music part of your toddler’s day is because it’s fun. But it’s pretty amazing to know that jamming to their favourite tunes could set your toddler up with skills for life.
“It’s one of the very few things that activates all the learning centres of the brain simultaneously,” Sam explains.
“When you’re doing that at a toddler age you’re creating neural pathways between all those learning centres. Research has shown it persists throughout their life.”
Want an easy way to get your toddler tapping their toes? Take a look at these 14 DIY musical instruments.\