It has been said that “Music has the power to soothe the savage beast.” I don’t know much about savage beasts, but I do know that music has an amazing influence on preschoolers. Not only is music soothing to their emotions, but it also seems to enhance young children’s developing cognitive abilities. Some researchers even believe that music increases the formation of new neural pathways within preschoolers’ brains!

Whether or not this is true, music is a rich, multi-sensory experience that does seem to enhance young children’s intelligence, reasoning skills, memory, and language skills. Participating in musical games or moving to music is a great way for preschoolers to “get their energy out.” Music integrates the body, mind, and spirit, and is a key to worship; music can draw us into the very presence of God.

In order to receive its wonderful benefits, children simply need to be exposed to quality music—early and often. The more time spent listening to music, moving to music, or playing “rhythm band” or musical games, the more benefits your children will receive and the longer lasting the benefits will be.

What Children Learn From Music

Children learn much more from music than just musical skills. They develop physical skills such as coordination, balance, and physical fitness through moving to music and participating in fingerplays and songs with motions. Cognitive development is mysteriously enhanced by music, including the areas of problem solving, thinking skills, math and spatial skills, and creativity. Singing helps children learn to speak more clearly and develops their phonetic awareness, listening skills, vocabulary, and self-expression. Music also affects children’s social development. Through music, children begin to understand the effect music has on our moods and emotions. Participating in group music activities and games develops manners, social skills, and self-confidence.

Besides all these wonderful benefits, there is musical skill itself. The amount of early exposure to quality music in a child’s life is often an accurate predictor of future musical ability. This is because young children learn music the same way they learn to speak—through listening, copying, and experimenting. Lots of time spent listening to quality music and participating in “music play” is the key to developing musical skills, a love and appreciation for music, and an ear for music. Those of us who may have musical abilities are not just mysteriously blessed with these skills. While some of our abilities came along with our genes, most of our musical abilities came from early exposure and experience. Without a doubt, we grew up in homes where music was played, listened to, and enjoyed.

Whether or not you grew up in a musical family, you can provide the benefits of a musical upbringing for your children by providing them with simple musical experiences. Keep the following goals in mind when planning musical activities for your children.

Musical Goals

     •   Learn to appreciate different types of music: Classical, bluegrass, gospel, folk songs, hymns, choral music, opera, etc.

     •   Distinguish between loud/soft/fast/slow, and act them out through movement or rhythm band.

     •   Learn fingerplays such as “5 Little Ducks Went Out to Play,” “5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” “Open, Shut Them,” etc.

     •   Learn classic children’s songs and folk songs such as “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “B-I-N-G-O,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and so on.

     •   Learn classic Sunday school songs such as “Jesus Loves Me,” “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” “Deep and Wide,” “The Wise Man Builds His House,” etc.