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The Power of Music in the Early Years

Updated: Mar 1





Emily Warriner

Preschool Teacher, Tinkey’s Tots Preschool

B.S. in Elementary Education, Early Childhood Education

 

Music is a powerful tool that can have a significant impact on our lives.  In the early childhood world, music is more than just a fun activity for children.  We know that music can inspire joy, self-expression, and creativity, but it can also greatly benefit children’s early learning and brain development.  In this article, we will discuss some of the ways music can affect children’s development, from infancy through adulthood.

 

Music, at its core, is fun!  There are so many ways to have musical fun with children!  In our preschool classrooms, we sing everyday; from nursery rhymes and silly songs to songs with movement and dances.  It never fails to make us laugh and smile - children and adults alike!  These moments are great for establishing a connection between child and caregiver, as well as encouraging the child’s creativity.  One of our favorite ways to do this is to take familiar songs, like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and “Old McDonald Had a Farm,” and asking children to change the words.  We get such fun ideas, like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Chicken!” which always has the kids laughing.  Another way to engage their creativity is giving them time to dance freely - play songs with different beats and tempos, encourage your child to dance ‘how the song makes them feel’, and watch their creativity bloom through their movements.  Giving children a prop, like a play scarf or egg shaker, is another way to elevate their ideas.

 

Engaging with music is also an activity that fires neurons in the brain.  An article published by the University of Georgia states that “During the first years of life, …neurons form connections with other neurons.  Over time, the connections our brains use regularly can become stronger” (“The Role of Music, 2022). It also says that “Children who grow up listening to music develop strong music-related connections in the brain.  Some of these music pathways actually affect the way we think.” (“The Role of Music, 2022)  Being exposed to and experiencing music can help strengthen these pathways in children’s brains, which helps prime their brain for later skills, such as early literacy and math.

 

Using music in the classroom and at home can help children:

  • Recognize rhythm and keep time to a beat

  • Hear, recognize, and create rhyming words

  • Hear and recognize syllables - words broken into parts with different notes in song

  • Develop comprehension skills - recalling what comes first, next, and last in familiar songs

  • Recognize and repeat patterns with familiar songs

  • Develop a baseline understanding of addition and subtraction through the use of finger plays (ex. 5 Little Ducks, 5 Green and Speckled Frogs)

  • Expand vocabulary through exposure to different words and sounds

  • Cross the midline of their body through movements, which helps make connections in the brain

By giving these experiences to children through music exposure in infancy and early childhood, they can have a strong foundation of these skills moving forward in their schooling.

 

There are many ways to incorporate music into your routine at home.  Sing with and play music for your children.  Share your love of music with them.  Show them songs you loved when you were a kid, and songs you love now.  Talk about how music makes you feel.  You can also enroll them in introductory music classes and offer experiences with small instruments.  You can also check out some of our favorite early childhood songwriters on Youtube and other streaming platforms!  In our class, we love Raffi, Dr. Jean, and Julie Austin.  Danny Go, Jack Hartmann, and the Learning Station also have great movement songs for kids.  If you are looking for more information and ideas, check out the resources below.  Encouraging your children to engage in different ways with music can foster their early brain development in many amazing ways.   

 

Additional Resources:

National Association for the Education of Young Children:

 

Bright Horizons:

Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer:

 

Articles:

 

References:

University of Georgia Extension (2022, December). “Building Baby’s Brain: The Role of 

 

 

Lean into Lent with Little Ones

Kathleen Blanchard

Director of Family Discipleship, St. John the Evangelist, Jackson, Michigan

 

Lent!  It is a little word for a big season.  It is a big season for many reasons.  I would like to focus on 2 that impact little ones particularly.  1) Lent is long, and 2) Lent seems sad.  This season leads up to a sad event, Jesus Passion and Death before we celebrate Easter and His Resurrection.

 

1)Lent is long.  40 Days is a long time especially when you consider that length of time in proportion to the age of a 3-6 year old.  Advent is 4 weeks and there is a pretty wreath with candles and the excitement of Christmas which brings all the activity and warmth of the season to make the time go by more quickly.  Lent is six weeks, there is no pretty wreath or candles to light, and not everyone celebrates Easter, that is the Resurrection of Jesus, in the same way that it appears everyone celebrates Christmas.  So, how do you help little ones make their way through the 40 days of Lent?  I have three ways to offer and invite you to explore the internet for more options

  1. Use a Lenten calendar, like the one found here: The Catholic Kid Lenten Calendar to keep track of the days and follow Jesus to the Resurrection.

  2. Make a paper chain with 40 links.  Each day of Lent remove one link and say a prayer to show sorrow of all the sin in the world…a Glory Be perhaps, or simply “Jesus, we love You and are sorry for all those who do not love You.”  The removed links could be saved and on Holy Saturday burn them outside in a fire pit so show that Jesus removes all sin.

(You could choose to build the chain, adding one for each day of Lent.)

  1. This would take some time, but could work for your family. On notecards write out the numbers 1-40. Have your littles help by using a purple crayon to trace the numbers you wrote. Think of 7-10 things that you and your child(ren) can do during the 40 days, repeating them over the course of the 40 days, in a kind of rotation.

Examples: 

  • Pray a Hail Mary for people in our family 

  • Help pick up the toys for 5 mins.

  • Practice silence for 1 min.

  • Give some of your favorite snack to the person eating with you

  • While riding in the car say a Glory be if you pass a Catholic Church

  • Make the sign of the Cross when you pass a Catholic Church

  • Say a prayer when you hear an emergency vehicle

  • Give a family member an extra hug

  • Draw a picture to let someone know you are thinking and praying for them

  • Bring a flower to church; put it in front of the statue of Mary, Joseph, or the altar

 

This kind of countdown, with something specific to do each day, might serve as something your little one(s) begin to look forward to, to anticipate, what are we going to do today!

 

2) Lent seems sad. Unlike Christmas which leads up to the joy of the birth of Christ, Lent leads up to Jesus' Passion and Death.  We cannot skip this part of the season, because without Jesus' Passion and Death, there could be no Resurrection…Pinnacle of preparation during Lent.  How can you help your little ones prepare for such a sad event, and know that the Glory of the Resurrection is just around the corner.  Here are 3 suggestions.

  1. Hide the Alleluia!  On Ash Wednesday, or a day leading up to the 1st Sunday of Lent, write out the word Alleluia! in large letters on a large piece of paper.  Encourage your littles to trace the letters of the word, add a variety of spring colors and decorations to the page around this word.  Then tell them that this joyful word will go away for 40 days so that we can think about how much Jesus loves us.  He loves us so much He did a GREAT ACT OF LOVE…He did a very hard thing for us and it hurt Him very much. Jesus suffered and died for us, but He ROSE AGAIN and came back to life!  That is what we celebrate in a very special way on EASTER SUNDAY. So we will save the Alleluia until EASTER SUNDAY.  Seal the paper in an envelope and then choose how you will plan to find the Alleluia on Easter Sunday.  Maybe it will be hidden with the Easter Eggs, maybe you might want to open it up at breakfast as a family, maybe the envelope could be opened during Easter dinner.

  2. Print of a picture of the Crucifix that you know would be appropriate for the age of your child.  The San Damiano Cross is a good fit for most 3-6 year olds.  Here is an image of that cross: San Damiano Cross Image Search (there are from which to choose).  Once a week, perhaps on Fridays during Lent, or as often as your child is interested in looking at the image, sit with your child(ren), look at the image, and talk to them about it. They will notice the wounds.  Acknowledge that they were hurtful to Jesus, much like when they fall and get a cut or a scape.  Share with your child(ren) that Jesus offered up all His hurts to God the Father because He loves you so very much.  Always include that yes, Jesus suffered and died, but He rose again and came back to life!  

  3. Consider adding a prayer to your nighttime routine.  Something that brings attention to the sacrifice of Jesus, in an age-appropriate way, but also gives your child(ren) the hope of the Resurrection.  It might go something like this: “Jesus thank You for loving me so much that You were hurt on the way to the Cross.  Jesus thank You for loving me so much that You died on the Cross.  Jesus, thank You for loving me so much that You rose again and came back to life!  Amen.”

 

Young children have a great capacity to understand very big spiritual things.  They can see Jesus on the cross and know that it was hurtful.  They should be told that it was, but that Jesus did it because He loves them so very much! Children need to also be told that Jesus came back to life because He loves them so very much and wants them to live with Him!  These seem like hard Truths, but your little ones are capable of knowing the great love of God.

 

Lent.  It is long, and it does seem sad.  However, it is my hope that you have found something here to inspire you and your family so that Lent isn’t so long, and doesn’t seem quite so sad.  It is a short amount of time to contemplate a great act of sacrificial love, culminating in the greatest feast day of the entire Church year, Easter!

 

There are three outstanding preschools in the Jackson Catholic Schools System.  All three of our preschools provide a holistic educational experience, with a focus on the academic, social, moral and spiritual development of the children.  

 

For more information or to schedule a tour, please contact the elementary school principals: 

 

Queen of the Miraculous Medal (Tinkey’s Tots): Liz Hartey - lhartley@myjacs.org

St. John the Evangelist: Renee Hornby - rhornby@myjacs.org

St. Mary Star of the Sea: Nancy O'Neill- noneill@myjacs.org


There are three outstanding preschools in the Jackson Catholic Schools System. All three of

our preschools provide a holistic educational experience with a focus on the academic, social, moral, and spiritual development of the children.



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