By Abha Ranjan Khanna
Early childhood – from birth to six years – is a time for great exploration, discovery and sensory motor development in children. Music and movement can enhance these opportunities. It is a wonderful way to work on physical skills, while also encouraging a young child to learn sounds, words and patterns and strengthening the following skills:
· Physical development
· Social and emotional
· Language and communication
Music and movement have global effects on the developing brain and support changes in a wide range of brain performance areas. Young children’s attention spans are shorter and their bodies just want to move! Therefore, a childhood rich in varied play, based on music and movement, can be built into a child’s daily routine right from birth.
Every parent wants to set up their child for long-term success. Part of this includes helping them learn from books and games. Another important area to focus children’s learning is on fundamental movement skills.
Fundamental movement skills give a young child the ability to move and be active with confidence and competence as he/she grows. Between the ages of 0-6 years, focus on helping your child learn balance, locomotion and coordination.
Music and movement are particularly important for children with developmental delays and or disabilities. In fact, based on recent research, various listening programmes with a careful selection of classical music is offered for children on the spectrum and with other developmental disabilities.
Following are ways a parent can prepare and mindfully include music and movement into the daily routines of their infants and toddlers.
1. Play your favourite music in the background through the day and bring the child’s attention to it by raising/lowering the volume or turning it on and off.
2. Play a variety of good quality recorded music to your child from all different genres. It’s great for building creativity and creating a calm home atmosphere.
3. Sway to the music while holding your child while varying the tempo along with the music. With older children, you can roll with the music, jump with it rhythmically, twirl with it or simply walk with its rhythm.
4. Select various music toys/instruments to keep around the house – xylophones, drums and other percussion instruments, rattles, multi coloured wrist bells, whistles, chime bars.
5. Play frequently with the music makers with your child, while bathing, before mealtimes or during active play time.
6. Routines are important so you could try to organise your activities at the same time each day. Children feel safe knowing they will spend some time each day with you and the treasure box.
7. Keep the instruments always clean!
8. Make sure the play spaces and toys/instruments are safe from things that can hurt a small child.
9. Settle your little one at night-time, every night, with some lullabies or other soothing music.
10. Try animal walks with toddlers with fast paced music in the background. Say “let’s stomp like an elephant”; “let’s gallop like a horse”; “let’s jump like a frog”; “let’s fly like a bird” and so on.
Music really does have a wonderfully calming effect, and is reassuring and comforting at bedtime and music and movements have a profound effect on development during daytime routines.
(The writer is an occupational therapist.)