Music for Young Learners
Dr. Rebecca Palacios

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Every child’s education should be well-balanced, including the fundamentals of reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, and the arts. Often when there are budget cuts in schools, the first thing to be eliminated is the arts. The problem with this is that in addition to their inherent value, the arts offer very effective ways for young children to make connections, understand ideas, and learn skills in all of the other content areas, particularly the “basics” of reading, writing, and mathematics. Music, especially, is an important part of a young child’s life that should be used for fun and for learning.

As a preschool and pre-k teacher, I used songs every day to help children learn many topics and aspects of reading, math, science, and social studies. Here are a few examples:

The Alphabet Song: Names and sequence of letters
Hokey Pokey: Parts of the body
Five Little Monkeys: Subtraction
The Farmer in the Dell: Sequencing
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star: Science
Home on the Range: Social studies
The Wheels on the Bus: Describing words

These, and others like them, are songs that children love to sing again and again. This repetition is important for young learners. Additionally, the rhymes and rhythms that children hear in these songs help develop reading skills, such as recognizing words in the same families (like fill, hill, and will) and identifying syllables in words.

Songs are even more fun when children can play along with their own rhythm instruments. Make a bongo out of an old oatmeal box or maracas (shakers) out of macaroni in a small paper bag. Even clapping hands to the beat of a song makes it more fun and enhances the language experience. And it’s a wonderful way for very young children to learn to count.

Music that is handed down from generation to generation is priceless and supports learning about language, heritage, culture, and social studies. Involve grandparents by asking them to teach songs from their childhoods to their grandchildren, whether in English or their native language (if it is not English).

Many wonderful children’s books have been written about musical instruments. My own favorite resource for teaching children about the different instruments is Peter and the Wolf musical symphony by Sergei Prokofiev, in which the characters are represented by instruments in the orchestra.

Movement and creative dance also lead to creativity in young children and help them explore how their bodies move in space and to different beats. Dancing can also help young children to learn and practice sequencing, an important concept in mathematics.

Put it all together and you see that when you add music to your child’s day, you are adding a powerful learning experience with far-reaching benefits. Learn a new song together today!

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