Read, Talk, Sing! Music is a part of family life in every culture. Simple lullabies have been sung to babies since the beginning of time. As a pediatrician, I know that singing a familiar song can help form a special bond between parent and child.

Benefits of music in early childhood development

Music and movement are critical for children’s early brain development. Singing, and the rhythm and rhyme that happens with it, helps shape your child’s social skills, vocabulary and ability to regulate emotions.

Music can help buffer stress, literally calming the heartbeat and soul. Even if you don’t consider yourself the best singer, hearing your voice has a calming influence on your baby when you slow down your words and sing them with rhythm.

By moving or dancing with the music, infants and toddlers fine tune their motor skills, develop body and spatial awareness, and improve balance.

Try these five music activities at home to keep children moving and learning

1. Sing when you’re counting your babies fingers and toes.

Use a rhyme like “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.” When you’re counting, use your five fingers to show the five monkeys. Hide a finger each time a monkey falls off the bed. Research shows that young children who participate in music demonstrate increases in pre-math and pre-reading skills.

2. Choose any tune to sing “We sing and we sing and we stop” – and repeat that three times.

Then choose other fun words like “dance” or “wiggle,” and wiggle until you sing “Stop!” This helps develop impulse control skills. Musical and movement activities, such as musical games and instrument play, naturally provide opportunities for cooperative play, listening and turn-taking.

3. Play your favorite instrumental music and take turns acting out what the music sounds like to you and your toddler.

You can even do this with a drum! Maybe you’ll dance like fairies, stalk like lions or float like clouds. Children of all ages benefit from moving to the rhythm of music. Babies build body-spatial awareness. Toddlers gain locomotor skills. Preschoolers develop coordination.

4. Sing songs that help positively reinforce behavior.

“Zip, zip your zipper up to your chin! Don’t you let the cold air in!” This makes getting ready a little easier. Music is a useful tool to help young children move from one activity to another. It also reduces negative behaviors and helps with routines.

5. Choose a familiar children’s song and change the words in silly ways.

“The itsy bitsy elephant climbed up the water spout!” Have fun finding the craziest combinations. One of the most important benefits of music is that it’s simply fun! Music is a great form of self-expression. It promotes creative thinking and offers a happy way to play and bond with your child.

Of course, music and singing aren’t only for the waking hours! Soothing songs and melodies can be lifesavers for parents wondering: How can I get my baby to sleep? When will baby sleep through the night?

I encourage parents to make singing part of their daytime and nighttime routines with their children. And I’m so proud that HealthPartners offers fun opportunities to make music with your child!

Learn more about how we support children's mental and behavioral health.