How to foster your child’s physical development and musical skills

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 she’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 her 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 her 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 her growing senses and makes new and strong pathways inside her brain.
  • Coordination: Even if your little one can’t sing the lyrics of the song she can move to the rhythm of the music. Moving her 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 her to coordinate both sides of her body and foster her bilateral coordination. This will serve her for future skills like using scissors.
  • Body awareness: Moving her body and listening to songs that talk about the body parts will help your child identify them and grow awareness of her body, understanding where those parts are located and what are their functions.
  • Balance: Sitting, moving, or standing on one foot all require her to learn how to shift the distribution of her weight and maintain her balance while listening to the music and moving to the beat. Eventually she’ll involve more complex movements like jumping and turning that will continue strengthening her muscles.
  • Fine motor skills: As she presses the keys of a piano, grabs a maraca, or moves her fingers to the song “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, your little one is fostering precise movements with the same fingers she’ll later use for writing and manipulating objects.
  • Hand-eye coordination: Remember your little one is all about imitating your moves. As she coordinates what she hears and the visual input, she’s fostering her hand-eye coordination. She’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 her fingers to the big muscles in her legs and trunk. As you explore with different sounds and music, you can also encourage her to engage more on her motor skills. For example, if you see that your daughter is able to dance to the beat of the song, try giving her an instrument so that she can experiment with new sounds while fostering her coordination and grip. Dance and enjoy the music together. Remember, the most important part is that your little one has fun while you foster her development.

Read more about the impact music has on your child’s development here.

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