Growing Readers is a monthly article offering parents and caregivers information on early childhood development and how to foster young readers and learners.
Most of us are familiar with songs like “The Wheels on the Bus,” "The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and the current favorite “Baby Shark,” and while they may drive us crazy at times, songs like these are building important pathways in a young child’s brain.
Rhymes and songs help children hear the words and the sounds in language. Hearing these words in the context of a song develops the meaning of the words. Children exposed to music speak more clearly and have larger vocabularies. Exposure to music also strengthens the brain-body connection. Singing and dancing build early math skills, like counting and patterning.
- Play music and find the rhythm. Practice clapping out the beat.
- Talk about musical theater. If you have a favorite musical, share some of the songs with your child.
- Make rhythm sticks by filling paper towel rolls with uncooked rice or beans. Tape the ends shut and shake.
- Dance to your favorite songs.
- Play musical chairs.
- Take a walk in nature. What “songs” can you hear? Birds? Frogs? Insects? Are the songs in nature at night different than the ones in the day?
- Use pots and pans to make instruments. Make different rhythms, and have your child repeat it. Then let them start the rhythm. What else in your house can be a musical instrument?
- Sing a favorite lullaby before bed or naptime. Music is also soothing!
- Look at Storyblocks from Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy for more songs in many languages.
“I love ‘I Got the Rhythm’ by Connie Schofield-Morrison and ‘Baby Danced the Polka’ by Karen Beamont,” says Early Literacy Librarian Miss Andrea. “They both have excellent, easy-to-hear rhythms. Also, check out some of my favorite children’s musicians: Jim Gill, Mr. Eric, Laurie Berkner, Kira Willey, Ziggy Marley, and Dan Zanes!”