5 Ways to Support Your Child’s Development with Music

Mar 13, 2022 / By KiwiCo and Us the Duo

Music. It doesn’t just get your feet tapping and your body wiggling to the beat. Music is widely considered to be a building block of childhood development. We pulled together five of the ways that experts say music benefits kids, then asked the musicians of Us the Duo — who just so happen to be parents themselves — for advice on creating musical moments in the home.

1.  Music encourages self-expression 

As children engage with music, they’re unlocking a new form of communication — and a new method for self-expression. Music is an open-ended language that gives kids a way to share their emotions when words fail (and when you’re still wrapping your head around the right way to say pasgetti, er, spaghetti, words do often fail). Different styles and tempos of music might even help kids manage big emotions and calm their bodies down — a key step toward strengthening those self-regulation skills. 

Advice from Us the Duo 

When our daughter Xyla’s feeling happy, she’ll ask us to play a specific song to help amplify her excitement. When she’s feeling unseen (i.e. if we’re having an adult conversation), she’ll often pick up the ukulele and start playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” She knows we’ll respond with encouragement and shift our focus to her (very intuitive!). In the midst of our daughter’s angry feelings, we often sing a calming jingle that helps explain her emotions. Xyla starts to sing it too and we all calm down together.

2. Music supports self-identity

Research shows that encouraging children to make up their own songs is a great way to promote creativity and independent thinking. Music lets kids express their unique wants and interests through melody — and gives you insight into the person they’re turning out to be. So if you ever hear your child crooning to their pet cat (or belting out a song about their favorite dinosaur), you’ll learn a thing or two about just how much they love Mr. Boots (or the mighty T. rex). You may even want to sing along!

Advice from Us the Duo

We like to write songs while our daughter is doing other creative activities in the same room. This shows our child that no matter how young or old they are, everyone can be creative in their own unique way. Recently, during bath time, we’ve been bringing in the guitar to test out new song ideas while Xyla plays with bubbles. As a result, we’ve noticed Xyla starting to write her own songs while she plays throughout the day. She’ll describe what she’s doing in melody and it ultimately ignites her creativity in a whole new way!

3. Music builds math skills

Music can be used to make tangible connections to different math fundamentals. Younger kids can count — or dance! — the 123s to the beat of their favorite song, and older kids can explore fractions and proportions through more complex rhythms. The best part? Kicking off math learning through music lets kids experience a seemingly non-creative subject through a creative outlet.

Advice from Us the Duo 

Singing a major scale as numbers (1 is “Do”,  2 is “Re”, 3 is “Mi” . . . up to 8) is a great way to introduce mathematics to kids in a fun and artistic way. We also started an exercise called “Pitch Matching” when Xyla was about 1 and 1/2 years old. We’d sing a single note and teach her how to sing her own note while matching our existing pitch. Now at 3 years old, she’s able to use that skill to recognize when patterns repeat.

4. Music inspires creative confidence

You might think that guided lessons are the best way to encourage your kid to get musical. But there’s a lot to be said for letting your child explore music on their own — through independent, self-directed play. From tinkling xylophones to toy drums, tinkering with instruments gives kids a chance to confront new challenges and investigate the unknown on their terms. Sure, it can get kind of noisy sometimes, but just think of it as the sweet sound of confidence!

Advice from Us the Duo

Around 2 years old, Xyla was seemingly shy due to a lack of social interactions during the pandemic. But then she found a toy microphone and started parading around the house asking both of us and her stuffed animals to clap our hands in rhythm. She started doing this at family birthday parties, the play gym, and the grocery store. Xyla now leads friends or new acquaintances to clap, sing, and dance along while she performs. It’s become an icebreaker and has dramatically helped her confidence.

5. Music stimulates brain function

Music has the power to change the brain for the better. For instance, studies have shown that music can do wonders for long-term memory. When children engage with music, it helps them establish memories more quickly and firmly. Practicing songs together, creating and memorizing lyrics, establishing a rhythm and repeating it regularly — these are all everyday activities you can use to strengthen your child’s memory and retention skills.

Advice from Us the Duo 

When our daughter was young, we’d work on improving her memory by pairing a piece of music with a visual album cover. Xyla would pick out a record and place it on the player with assistance, and then we’d help her associate the album cover with the music she was hearing. Now whenever that song is repeated or heard in public, she can often say who the artist is and what they look like. Developing this habit during Xyla’s developmental years has been essential in cultivating her memory.

Need creative inspiration for incorporating more music into your kids' lives? Watch the video below to see how Us the Duo and their daughter, Xyla, composed a fun, original song called "Engineering Awesome" using hands-on KiwiCo musical crates they built together.

Shop these musical KiwiCo projects here!


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