Sounds & Music in Early childhood

Music is always associated with emotions of all kinds. Human beings find music to be soothing, joyful and an integral part of any celebration. Children are not untouched by the almost magical nature of music. Right from the birth, children sleep to the sounds of lullabies and find comfort in the sounds that are melodious to their ears. This connection with music continues during the early childhood years when they move to their playschools or care centres. The children who are the most difficult to settle down, do so eventually in a centre where there is love and warmth and more often than not there is music in many forms.

Songs and rhymes are almost inseparable from any early childhood program. No pedagogy is ever devoid of this component. The form and method of delivery may vary but music finds its way in the rhythm in which teachers talk, the soft humming to calm down a cranky child, meditation and chanting during mindfulness sessions, rhymes and songs to deliver concepts and ideas. Music lays the foundation stones for the later cognitive and other important skills during developmental process of infants and pre-schoolers.

Music intelligence is as important as logical or socio-emotional intelligence. In fact music assists in development of many skills, some of which have been outlined as under:

Social development by singing along and moving with the rhythm

Emotional development by expression of emotions through songs and rhymes

Cognitive development by comprehension of words and their meanings

Vocabulary development by learning the usage and pronunciation of new words

Language, literacy and reading skills of the children

Retention of concepts with memorization of tones and rhythm

Motor development which includes midline crossing which can easily be done with the music and movement sessions

Sensory development and growth of coordination skills

Music lifts up the mood of children

Early childhood educators along with all the other professional capabilities and expertise in early childhood care and development should also be kept aware of the importance of music in planning and delivery of developmentally appropriate practices or DAP’s

To integrate music into the curriculum and making it an important part of the classroom or daily practices, the educator should realize the part music plays in the early brain development. In the following part of this article, we will be giving a few suggestions on incorporation of music for different age groups.

The many effects of music have already been pointed in the earlier section of this article. Apart from these the educators should understand that it is a field which is under research and impact of music on brain has been established. Research indicates that the auditory cortex which is a part of the cerebral cortex region of the brain registers the sounds processed by cochlea. The numerous neurons break these musical notes into elements of pitch, duration, spatial relations and timbre. All these elements play their parts in sound associations and emotional responses.

Why is this information important for teachers/educators?

Sounds which are high pitched like screaming or shouting at a child causes stress in children. Under stressful conditions, amygdala (which is a gland in the primitive brain) takes over and causes the release of the stress hormones. The brain literally shuts down and whatever you are trying to tell the child will not be processed. Constant stress or a teacher who has a high pitched voice can cause this kind of stress and therefore should be trained to control the pitch and duration while communicating with the children.

Incorporation of music in different age groups

Infants: Loud music may over-stimulate the infants and thus soothing music with slow and clear usage of words should be chosen. The actions with the music should be slow and soft as well. Fast and quick movements might confuse or startle the infant. The duration of songs or rhymes should be short and repetitive.

Toddlers: Toddlers love to dance and move to music. For them the music can be a little fast. Music with correct words should be carefully chosen as they are in the process of picking up the words. They love facial expressions and repitition. It’s okay if they have any one or two favourite rhyme or song.

Pre-schoolers: They enjoy singing along. They love melodies and variations in music. Teacher can change the tone or the dance steps to make it more interesting. In stories and rhymes, tapping, clapping, snapping etc. can be involved. They can be given instruments to play with. In a certain activity it can be asked of them to keep changing the instrument or take turns.

The research indicates that early childhood educators should have a grasp of the key elements to address in music, namely pitch, duration, intensity, and timbre. In addition to these, play activities can be used to supplement early childhood education practices, including nursery rhymes and songs, soundscape stories, and creating melodies and accompaniments. In order to offer good-quality music education, teachers must be adaptable.

If you would like to know more about music in the classroom or at home, feel free to contact us!