You may have noticed that you have an easier time remembering lyrics to a song, even one from years ago, than remembering what you talked about at dinner last night. In my experience, music has helped my clients (and me!), relax in a stressful or difficult situation, remember key phrases or song lyrics and have fun. But beyond this, music also serves as an excellent medium for children to grow their speech and language skills.
The repetitive nature of music serves as an excellent model to grow their vocabulary and speech sounds while eliciting use of those new vocabulary words and sounds. On a micro level, songs are a unique place where singers may use single sounds in their songs, and it sounds beautiful! Those “ooos” and “ahhh” and “ttttt—a” are excellent examples for your child and can help prompt them to try those sounds themselves. The same concept is true for full words. While your child may not readily label their farm toy in play, if you sing a few verses of “Old MacDonald” and then pause with Old MacDonald had A______”, they may be more apt to fill in with FARM!
The rhythm of music also imitates prosody in running speech. Songs demonstrate for children that the intonation and rhythm that you use in your speech portrays emotions and the meaning of your sentence. For example, upbeat songs in which the end of utterances ramp up to have a higher tone or volume can convey that you are feeling happy or excited (think “Row Row Row your boat”)but a slower song in which the tone may drop off at the end of utterances can signal that the singer is conveying a sad or relaxing feeling (think “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. The way you ask a question, make an exclamation or share a detail are all used with different prosody and music is a great introduction to this concept.
Music is also a great way to interact with your child in their natural environment. You are building an emotional and social connection while you are exposing them to massive amounts of language in a way that is user friendly. Music offers a platform for you to engage in social reciprocity with your child as they actively listen to, respond and engage with you. For example, a song like “If You’re Happy and You Know It” encourages your child to anticipate what you are going to say next and respond appropriately. “If you’re happy and you know it……….Stomp your feet!!!!” Your child can participate on both sides of this schema by following the direction with you or being the “song leader” and calling out the directions for you to participate in as well. Possibly the best aspect of music is that there are no pre-requisite skills needed to participate! Children who are at any stage of development can benefit from music. Whether they are taking in the language exposure passively or actively participating, they are growing their skills. So sing to your kiddos, sing with your kiddos and listen to music with your kiddos because it will help support their speech and language development…..and it’s fun!