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Music in your childcare setting

Like many childcare professionals, I use music regularly in my setting for singing and dancing. I have attended various workshops and own a range of musical instruments for the children to play and explore, representing different countries of the world.

I also have CDs of children’s rhymes and songs, classical music and various other genres of music. We have daily rhyme or song time and the children have their own favourites. 

The power of music

It never fails to amaze me how powerful music can be and the impact that music can have. Music prompts memories both good and bad.

How many couples have a particular song that they say is “their song”? Does a song come on the radio that reminds you of times past? I still remember that as a very young child I learnt my left from my right by singing 'one, two, three, four, five. Once I caught a fish alive....' Who remembers those classroom days singing along to “All things bright and beautiful”! As young children who could not yet read, we learnt these songs by heart and probably still remember them now.

Music sparks new ideas

I recently the children to introduced a 'tidy up' song into my setting to the theme from Black Beauty. It worked well to encourage the group of four year olds I cared for at the time - tidying away had never happened so quickly before!

I explained that the music was from the film Black Beauty and showed them the Ladybird book which simplified the story. This became a firm favourite with one of the girls I cared for – when I asked her to stop running indoors for fear of knocking over a little one, she replied by saying, "I'm not running, I'm galloping". At least it was broadening her vocabulary! She is now 11 years old; I still think of her when I hear the theme to Black Beauty. 

How music affects the brain

Sally Goddard Blythe looks at how music affects the brain in her book ‘The Well Balanced Child’. Blythe discusses how music develops both the left and the right hemisphere of the brain and is a prerequisite to developing speech and language skills (see reference 1 below).

I know from my experience of working with the children how much their development can be influenced by music. One example is thirty-three month old Nicholas (details changed to protect identity), who struggled with vocabulary. His mother and I discussed his progress, and worked with other professionals to provide him with further support. I had noticed that he was becoming less confident with the other children and would often play alone.

However, when we were singing songs which included actions and dance moves, he became more interested and involved by attempting to sing along and interacted with the other children with more ease afterwards.

I altered the timing of these sessions to the beginning of the day, including songs that had lots of group involvement such as ‘ring a roses’ with all the children joining in the singing and dancing . Nicholas became more animated with the music, his renditions of the much repeated songs clearer and his confidence grew.

The children enjoyed this routine and they all benefitted from this early social interaction with each other. This became apparent the day they did not wait for an adult to ‘lead’ their music session and initiated their own round of ring a roses when the last child arrived, with Nicholas happily in the ‘ring of roses’! 

This experience highlighted the important role that music plays in early years development. Seeing the impact that a small change can make has reaffirmed the impact of using music in your setting.

Reference 1 - Goddard Blythe, S. (2004) The Well Balanced Child, Movement and early learning,Hawthorn, Press early years series.

  • Do you have experiences of music that have made an impact on a child in your setting?
  • How do you use music in your setting?

About the author

Jane is Chair of PACEY’s Board of Trustees. She has been a registered childminder since 1995, has a degree in Early Years and holds Early Years Professional Status.
The experience she has gained through the combination of study, volunteering and work, give Jane a deep understanding of the early years sector - both its challenges and its many rewards.

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