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15 Benefits of Hands-on Instrument Play for Toddlers and Preschoolers’ Development

Did you know that playing musical instruments is not only fun for toddlers and preschoolers, but it also helps with their development? From improving hand-eye coordination to enhancing memory skills, there are many benefits to be had from hands-on instrument play. Keep reading to learn more about what these benefits are and how you can help your child get the most out of their music-making experiences.

Benefit #1 – Fine & Gross Motor Skills

Holding and manipulating instruments is excellent fine motor skills practice. Children need to learn to coordinate their fingers and develop control in order to produce sounds. Instruments can also work the large muscles of the body by incorporating movement into music activities by marching to the beat of rhythm sticks, dancing to the melody or banging on large drums. 

photo of girls wearing dress while holding hands

Benefit #2 – Cause and Effect

Cause and effect is a skill children learn in the early years. It means “when I do this, then this happens.” It’s an important cognitive skill. As babies discover that when they shake the rattle, it produces a sound, older preschoolers can learn that each bar on the xylophone produces a different sound and that hitting them in a certain way creates a melody. 

Benefit #3 – Learning About Sound

Auditory perception is an important pre-reading skill and music is a wonderful way to develop it. By playing with instruments, children learn about sounds and how they are made. They become familiar with rhythm, melody, beat, pitch, and can identify musical instruments when listening.

Benefit #4 – Body Awareness

As kids learn to manipulate instruments they also improve their body awareness. They learn that their bodies can make sounds, that they can use their breath to blow into some instruments, that their hands are controlling the instruments and therefore the sounds they make, etc. They learn how to move their body to produce sound for each individual instrument – bang hard, just move the fingertips, blow, pluck or shake. Kids learn that their bodies can also be used to make music we call body percussion.

Benefit #5 – Vocabulary and Language

As kids discover the instruments and their various properties, they also develop a musical vocabulary of words such as melody, pitch, fast, slow, high sound, low sound, rhythm, beats, etc.They also learn the verbs associated with how to play instruments, such as blow, pluck, scrape, shake, rattle, etc.

Benefit #6 – Concentration

Rhythms and melodies are extremely effective at holding the attention and interest of children, developing their attention spans. “The child who concentrates is immensely happy.” – Maria Montessori

Benefit #7 – Midline Crossing

Several instruments encourage midline crossing – when a child crosses over the imaginary line in the center of the body with the opposite hand/leg. Drum sets, violins, and pianos are examples of the types of instruments that require this skill, which is important for learning to read and write.

a child playing a xylophone

Benefit #8 – Sensory Development

As children learn through all their senses, playing with instruments provides a wonderful sensory experience involving sight, hearing and touch.

Benefit #9 – Hand-Eye Coordination

Any activity that requires the hands and the eyes to work together develops hand-eye coordination. Playing instruments relies on the eyes being able to accurately guide the hands.

Benefit #10 – Music Appreciation

Music is relaxing, good for the soul and is an art form that children can learn to appreciate. Developing an appreciation for music is not just about listening to music around us, but also about having exposure to the instruments that create it.

happy multiracial little girls playing synthesizer
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Benefit #11 – Developing Musical Talent

Children who have exposure to music and experiences in making music are far more likely to develop an interest or discover a passion for learning to play an instrument, singing, or composing. 

Benefit #12 – Sorting and Classifying

Instruments naturally fall into classes or categories. Children can exploring these categories by identifying the properties of the instruments like how they are played (shaken, blown, struck), what material they are made of (wood, metal, skin), or their shape (triangle, circle, rectangle).

Benefit #13 – Cognitive Development

The link between music and cognitive development has been widely researched. We know that music promotes brain growth and develops reasoning, memory, planning and many other skills that ultimately boost academic performance.

Benefit #14 – Expression and Creativity

Music is a wonderful way for children to express themselves. Similar to creative art, music is an art form that allows kids to create freely. Children learn to make sounds with the instruments and then how to control the sounds and put them together to invent music.

close up photo of brown instrument with blue sticks benefit
Photo by Darcy Lawrey on Pexels.com

Benefit #15 – Culture

Teaching children about instruments and where they originate from is a great way to build some cultural awareness. Watching videos, viewing pictures or touching some real instruments from around the world can be invaluable to young learners.

Conclusion

Educators often advocate for parents to get their kids involved in music from a young age, but sometimes it can be hard to understand exactly why. This blog post enumerates some of the many benefits that playing an instrument has on a child’s development. From developing body awareness and improving motor skills, to encouraging expression and creativity, there are countless reasons why every toddler and preschooler should have the opportunity to engage in hands-on instrument play. So go ahead and let your little ones make some noise – it just might lead to a lifetime of enjoyment (and achievement)!

Source: Le Roux, A. 2011. Music in Early Childhood Development and the Foundation Phase. Le Roux: Pretoria.

Read the previous blog

Growing Your LOVE of Music | Cultivating Interests | Expanding Understanding | Honing Skills

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