Author: El Robertson | Pediatric Speech and Language Therapist BSc
Before they can talk and even walk . . . babies love music. Whether it is dancing to music from the TV, clapping along to moms singing or banging spoons with daddy on the table, babies can’t get enough of those beats and tunes.
Music is a great tool (albeit noisy!) to unlock fun and playful opportunities to share enjoyment, experience, and communication. Do not worry though, you don’t have to be a great musician or singer to get things started. Check out the 10 ideas below to turn up the tunes, boogie to the beat, and get communicating!
1. Sing songs
Simple! Get singing! Whether it’s nursery rhymes or the latest hit on the charts, get singing. Our children love to listen, look, and learn from us. Many children are able to sing familiar songs before they can string a sentence together, as the music aids retention and recall of language. Adding music to our language will increase their attention and engagement. Be animated, add actions, and dance in the kitchen! You can even use learning apps, like Speech Blubs, to teach some of the most popular songs. They will love it!
2. Instrument vocabulary
We are spoiled for choice when it comes to vocabulary in the category of music, whether it’s naming instruments like piano, trumpet, recorder, etc. or naming parts like strings, keys, sticks . . . the list is endless. Model clear words using pictures, videos, and even the real thing if you have them to help them build new and exciting vocabulary around music.
3. Explore the concept of Volume
Volume is a fun, but also an extremely useful concept to explore. Whether it’s exploring the volume of their own voice, discussing loud and quiet things in the wider world, playing with volume on the TV, or playing instruments and comparing loud and quiet . . . it supports not only their vocabulary around the concept but also their listening and discrimination skills.
4. Listening and repeating
Listening, turn-taking, responding are all key tools required for conversation. Start the practice early by playing, listening and repeating games. Tap out a beat, sing a little tune, clap out a rhythm, and see if they can repeat it back to you. Take turns to be the leader and the follower.
5. Verbs and music
Music is movement. There are hundreds of action words you can explore when talking about music with your child from the simple verbs such as “bang,” “clap,” “sing,” “play,” to more complex such as “strum,” “pick,” “tune,” “rattle,” “blow.”
6. Ready, steady, go!
Most children I know love to be loud! Find or create some simple ways of creating noise e.g. wooden spoon and a pan, a shaker, bell and use “ready . . . steady . . . go!” to create anticipation. On “go!” have fun making lots and lots of noise, then stop . . . hold it . . . and “ready . . . steady . . . go!” This supports waiting and listening for your cues while enjoying being very loud!
7. Discover syllables
Multisyllabic words can be tricky for children to pronounce due to the increased complexity of multiple sounds in a word. Breaking down longer words into syllables is a great way of slowing down the production of a word, drawing attention to each syllable, and therefore creating the best opportunity for success. Use a drum, clap, or tap out the syllables using the sound of the beats to help bring awareness to each part of the word and say them together with your child e.g. mo-tor-bike, e-le-phant.
8. Teach about pitch
The highs and lows. Pitch is a tricky concept to try and explain, but a much easier one to explore and play with. Either using your voice or instruments, e.g. a piano or guitar you can explore and discuss high vs. low pitch. For example, a low voice might be an angry voice, a high voice might be an excited voice, a bear might speak in a low voice, and a mouse in a high voice. Increasing awareness and control over pitch in the early years can support a child using expression and intonation in their voice as they grow.
9. Listening and discrimination
Find some things in your house that make a noise, e.g. a bell, a shaker, scrunchy paper, and explore them with your child. Hide them with a cloth and make a noise with one. Then, show your child the objects and see if they can pick out the one you used. This develops listening, attention, and discrimination skills, which helps with speech development and language comprehension.
10. Musical chairs
It’s a classic, but it’s great fun! Get some music on, some chairs out, and get going! Use different music to explore genres, march along to the rhythm, move fast or slow to reflect the music’s speed, listen and attend to the sound to hear the cue, and then . . . Stop! Everyone find a chair!
About the Author
Paediatric Speech and Language therapist BSc
El Robertson is a Children’s Speech and Language therapist in the UK. For the last 5 years, she has been working alongside children ages 0-16 in clinics and schools to get super talking started! She has joined the Blub Blub team to help cook up some creative communication content and activities for the Speech Blubs Blog. Fun fact: Favourite game to play – Hide the Spider!