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How music impacts your child’s motor development

father dancing with his daughter

Key points:

  1. Children naturally respond to music from a very young age, showing movements and reactions as early as 9 to 11 months. This early engagement plays a crucial role in various aspects of their development.
  2. Music has a significant impact on the physical skills of a child, involving motor control, coordination, body awareness, balance, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.
  3. Music exposure contributes to the development of senses by exposing children to different sounds, rhythms, pitches, and tones. The coordination required in responding to music fosters bilateral coordination, body awareness, balance, fine motor skills, and hand-eye coordination.
  4. Music therapy, as evidenced by studies, has shown improvements in motor functions, particularly in cases like stroke patients.

Do you remember that at school you had math, science, music, and P.E classes? Music, like any other subject, plays an important part in a child’s development and has been proven to have numerous benefits in multiple domains.

Children naturally enjoy music and begin reacting to it since they are inside their mother’s womb. At about 9 months of age you’ll begin noticing how your little one attempts to move to the beat of a song. By 11 months they’ll be able to dance and move to the song’s rhythm. We’ve previously talked about how music influences your child’s linguistic, cognitive, and socioemotional development. Now let’s talk about the impact music has on their physical skills.


Moving with music requires specific control over motor systems and perception. It involves timing, sequencing, spatial organization, sensory-motor interactions, and auditory pathways. Neuroimaging studies show that auditory and motor systems in the brain are often co-activated during music perception and performance. These systems have a “feedback” relationship that interacts as your child hears and moves. This relationship makes it possible for them to perform auditory-guided actions when dancing to the beat of a song. Neuroimaging shows that just by listening to music, the brain engages the motor system. A very interesting study revealed that patients who suffered a stroke showed greater improvements in their motor functions after receiving music therapy, as opposed to just conventional physiotherapy.

Here are some examples of how music involves your child’s motor development

  • Developing the senses: Just as textures and colors, exposing your child to different types of sounds, rhythms, pitches, and tones fosters their growing senses and makes new and strong pathways inside their brain.
  • Coordination: Even if your little one can’t sing the lyrics of the song they can move to the rhythm of the music. Moving their arms up and down, passing a maraca from one hand to the other, or moving to the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” all require them to coordinate both sides of their body and foster their bilateral coordination. This will serve them for future skills like using scissors.
  • Body awareness: Moving their body and listening to songs that talk about the body parts will help your child identify them and grow awareness of their body, understanding where those parts are located and what are their functions.
  • Balance: Sitting, moving, or standing on one foot all require them to learn how to shift the distribution of their weight and maintain their balance while listening to the music and moving to the beat. Eventually they’ll involve more complex movements like jumping and turning that will continue strengthening their muscles.
  • Fine motor skills: As they press the keys of a piano, grab a maraca, or move their fingers to the song “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, your little one is fostering precise movements with the same fingers they’ll later use for writing and manipulating objects.
  • Hand-eye coordination: Remember your little one is all about imitating your moves. As they coordinate what they hear and the visual input, they’re fostering their hand-eye coordination. They’ll need this at school when taking notes while listening to the teacher, or when following what’s written on the blackboard.

Music encourages your little one to move and coordinate from the tiny muscles in their fingers to the big muscles in their legs and trunk. As you explore with different sounds and music, you can also encourage them to engage more on their motor skills. For example, if you see that your child is able to dance to the beat of the song, try giving them an instrument so that they can experiment with new sounds while fostering their coordination and grip.

Dance and enjoy the music together! Remember, the most important part is that your little one has fun while you foster their development.

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