The Power of Music and Dance in Early Childhood Development

Whether you are a professional musician performing on stage, someone who just likes to sing in the shower, or are learning a new dance for your wedding day, music and dance has a way of weaving itself throughout our lives. Nursery Rhymes and lullabies ingrained in our own childhood memories continue to be passed down to our own children. In every culture around the world, music and song has been used to teach, soothe, cheer and inspire.

But why does music play such an important role in our lives? Did you know, other than humans, the only other animals that respond to music and move consistently keeping the beat are seals, elephants, and cockatoos?

Studies show that already by 2 months of age human babies are able to discriminate between different rhythmic patterns such as a Waltz and a March.

And how does a baby differentiate between these patterns? Through dance! More specifically through dancing with you! By rocking, swaying and moving with our babies, we are activating their vestibular systems responsible for balance and spatial orientation. Research shows that when we move to music, various areas of our brains are being activated simultaneously related to language processing, memory, sensory processing and even areas associated with emotion. Research also shows that dance and music done in group settings will not only boost social-emotional development, but enhance neural development too.

So how can we utilise the power of music and dance with our own children?
Here are some ideas from Intellidance Founder Jessica Griffin:

• Dance with your baby daily, from the time they are born! Wear them in a baby carrier and sway, bounce, and boogie! You and your baby will also benefit from skin to skin time.
• Listen to a wide variety of music. Invest in some world music so your child is exposed to rhythmic and metrical patterns outside your cultural context. (check out Intellidance on spotify for lots of music you can listen to for free at home!)
• Join a music/dance programme! Studies have shown that babies and children who participate in group music and movement activities have increased socio-emotional development.
• Play with shakers or scarves. When your baby is old enough, give them shakers or scarves to hold while bouncing or swaying to music. Not only will they benefit from the movement to the music, but these props will encourage your child to move to the beat themselves! As your child gets older the scarves can be used to work on fine motor skills, expressive communication and as a way to extend the exploration of a variety of movement concepts in dance!

Why not try out this fun knee bounce rhyme at home?…
It will activate your child’s vestibular system, develop rhythmic awareness, foster language development and is a wonderful bonding exercise!!

Pace Goes the lady, the lady, the lady! (slow knee bounces holding baby’s hands)
Pace Goes the lady!
Whoa! (tilt baby backwards)
Canter goes the gentleman, the gentleman, the gentleman! (slightly faster knee bounces)
Canter goes the gentleman!
Whoa! (tilt baby backwards)
Gallop goes the horseman, the horseman, the horseman! (faster knee bounces)
Gallop goes the horseman!
And falls into a ditch! (tilt baby all the way back to laying down)

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