Music is so important to children because it enhances speaking and vocal development, communication and attention skills. When activities include music and play, children have the ability to focus and develop listening skills. Children also learn ways to express themselves and engage socially.

Music can be used to reinforce everything you are doing with children, from learning colors to brushing teeth. Parents and nannies can easily add music throughout your day – at breakfast, dinner, playtime, naptime, and even in the car. Parents and Nannies can use songs to reinforce the skills or content you are trying to teach. Here are five ways to add music to your child’s routine.

1. For infants, music can be added to playtime.

To practice hand movements that improve coordination, listen to Two Little Blackbirds and create a bird by looping your two thumbs together. As you recite the song, your ‘bird’ flies around. This is a great activity for infants as they often imitate the birds’ movements. You can substitute your child’s name instead of using the names Peter and Paul. To provide variety and help build their vocabulary, ask your little one to give you some names, perhaps mom’s name, brother’s name, or dad’s name.

2. For toddlers, music can be used to introduce counting as part of a nap time routine.

Here is the song Ten Little Angels. We chose to use pots and kitchen items so don’t think you need expensive instruments to make music. Music making should be a fun and enjoyable process as seen in the video. You can have your child experiment with keeping the beat softly or loudly, marching or skipping. Make sure to vary movement and dynamics. Let children experiment, succeed, or fail, creating a safe, fun way to learn. At this age, mistakes do not really matter, it’s all about the learning process.

3. Music can help preschoolers learn colors, as in the song, Sing a Rainbow.

You can use socks, plastic dishes, gloves, streamers, or anything that will provide you with the colors required. Have the child point or pick up the colored object as it is sung. If you have more than one child, you can give each child a specific color and have him/her hold up their colored object as you sing it. Before and/or after you sing the song, ask the child about the color of an object in a room such as, “What is the color of the rug?” “What in this room is green?” By doing this, you do two things: first, you assess are assessing what your child may or may not already know; and secondly, you build the child’s vocabulary and association with colors.

4. For kindergartners, music can be used to help them gain independence during their morning routine.

For example, select a song that is 2 minutes long. Have this song play while they brush their teeth, so they learn how long they should brush. Then add a second song and teach them to use this time to choose their clothes, put their pajamas in the laundry basket, and get dressed. Adding a third song would indicate it’s time to put their lunch box and book in their backpack for school.

5. As children grow into first grade, memorization and advanced learning can be improved through music.

I Know an Old Lady is a sing along and it’s often challenging to recall the order as it’s a long song, and sometimes a tongue-twister. Notice I have the animals from the song hanging on the wall behind me. This is to help the child sing along and recall the order (and help you if you do not have the animals memorized). You do not need anything fancy to do this song; before I bought the Old Lady Puppet, I used colored drawings of the animals.

Adding music to a child’s day is all about having fun so don’t worry if you are not a musician or singer. Sing – even if you don’t think you have the “best voice”, as a child is not going to judge you and singing helps them build their vocabulary. Play Instruments! You can use everyday household items such as pots and pans and wooden spoons. You don’t necessarily have to have a real instrument. Make instruments – a shaker can be as simple as an empty water bottle filled with popcorn kernels

Music has proven to increase learning so provide lots of opportunities for children to create and explore music. Encourage children to listen to different types of music and experiment with creating rhythms while making their own music. This helps children realize that they can make decisions for themselves as they build critical thinking skills.

For more information about using music to care for children, a Children and Music course is available within the Advanced Childcare Certification Program at the Nanny Institute.

Dr. Beth StutzmannAbout the Author. Dr. Beth Stutzmann earned her Doctor of Musical Arts in Music Education from Shenandoah University, Master of Music in Horn Performance from Oklahoma City University, and Bachelor of Music in Music Education from The Boston Conservatory of Music. Dr. Stutzmann began her teaching career in public schools, instructing general music classes in grades PreK-8. She is the AP Music Theory Curriculum Writer for the University System of California and teaches for Georgia Virtual School. She was named Governor’s Teaching Fellow in 2012. In the same year, she was also the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success. Dr. Stutzmann is also an adjunct faculty member of the US Nanny Institute, an organization dedicated to professional training and certification of elite Nannies, Au Pairs, Babysitters, and other childcare providers.