Lower stress levels, better sleep, increased learning. At the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota, we’re always listing the benefits of play, but this week, we’re looking at a part of play that truly appeals to all ages: music!
We have had many musical events at the Museum, and 2023 will bring many more. Everyone knows that music is fun and engaging, but we should never take for granted the many ways it benefits our lives, particularly the lives of young people.
Music of all kinds, from basic nursery rhymes to full symphonies, enriches and enhances our daily experiences. The last Wednesday of the month at the Museum’s Young Explorers program features songs and stories, but if you can’t make it to our programming, we encourage you to incorporate rhyming and music at every age and stage.
Five Reasons to Engage in Music and Rhyming Every Day with Children
Increased attention and learning abilities
When lessons and information are taught with music and rhymes, it is easier–and more fun!-for small children to absorb and retain the material being taught. Think of the alphabet song! We all know at least one adult who still uses it, even if just in their heads, when they find themselves needing to alphabetize data. The keys to helpful musical devices in memorization are rhythm and pitch changes.
TRY: Create a unique song for your phone number and address. Put a higher pitch or an emphasis at the pauses. “Five zero SEVEN, three eight SIX, zero TWO seven NINE; two two four LAMM street!” Varying the rhythm and pitch increases the memory’s hold, because it’s connecting the words to multiple sensory experiences. Make sure it’s the same each time.
Calm and soothing environment
Nursery rhymes and relaxing music have the ability to calm people of all ages. In fact, music is so effective in reducing anxiety, it is often used in dental, preoperative, and radiation therapy settings to help patients cope with their worries about procedures. It’s also used in schools to quell test anxiety. Any kind of relaxing, calming music can contribute to an improved mood. Calming music can be combined with cognitive therapy to lower anxiety even more effectively than conventional therapy alone. The emotional component of music is vast, and we have explored the idea on the blog previously. According to the AAP, studies suggest that specially designed music with specific tones and beats is even more effective than regular music.
TRY: Play soft music to cue transitions and changes. Having a regular song to signal a time for moving on from one thing to the next helps ease the emotions and can be a tool to avoid long series of reminders. A popular choice is the “Clean-Up Song” which caregivers often use when it’s time to pick up to prepare for something else.
Better sleep patterns
Music can be used at both bedtime and wake-up time for improving routines and quality of sleep. Soothing, relaxing music can slow breathing, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, quiet the nervous system. ease muscle tension, trigger the release of sleep-friendly hormones, including serotonin and oxytocin, and reduce sleep-stifling hormones like cortisol. Music can also stimulate the mind and the body. Energizing, upbeat music can elevate heart rate, promote physical stamina and endurance, activate areas of the brain responsible for physical coordination, mental focus and attention, and creativity, and trigger the release of hormones, including dopamine and adrenaline, which boost alertness. The key is choosing the right music for the time of day or night, and the desired effects.
TRY: A bedtime routine that includes music. Research shows that a pre-bedtime music-listening session can help you fall asleep more quickly. Routine is key, as the more you do it, the more effective it becomes. A similar practice with energizing music will foster an easier time getting kiddos out of bed in the morning.
Fosters reading skills
Rhyming–on its own in stories and children’s poems or in music–is very helpful to get children started in reading. When children hear nursery rhymes, they hear the sounds vowels and consonants make. They learn how to put these sounds together to make words. They also practice pitch, volume, and voice inflection, as well as the rhythm of language. For example, listen to how you sound when you ask questions. Do you sound different when you tell a story? In nursery rhymes, children hear new words that they would not hear in everyday language (like fetch and pail in “Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water”). Nursery rhymes are short and easy to repeat, so they become some of a child’s first sentences.
TRY: Fill in the blanks. Read nursery rhymes together and see if your child can fill in the missing final word. The rhyme should key them in. “Run, run, as fast as you can, You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread ____.”
Bonding and relationships
Nursery rhymes and music promote social and emotional development as well. Singing and reciting nursery rhymes together with your child creates a very real and special bond. Studies have shown that singing, even more than talking, keeps babies calm and can lead to stronger social bonds with caregivers. This bond can be increased through physical touch, as you snuggle up during a lullaby or interact during clapping rhymes or tickle songs. Humor and emotional awareness are important social skills that begin to be developed through the stories and characters found in nursery rhymes.
TRY: Incorporate movement or touch into song or reading time. For older children who don’t enjoy touch as much, consider clapping out the beat to add mathematics into the lesson as well!
No matter how you bring music and nursery rhymes into your time with children, they will gain many benefits. Research says caregivers will, too!