Teaching Rhythm and Music to Toddlers

Toddlers should be allowed to play and experiment with music.

Teaching rhythm and music to toddlers requires allowing the toddler to experiment with and play with musical objects. It is not necessary for the toddler to learn to play each instrument properly at this stage. Rather, the toddler should be encouraged to explore the instrument and discover the potential sounds on her own. In addition, toddlers should be exposed to music in entertaining and captivating ways that incorporate the senses of touch and hearing.


Allow the child to listen to an excerpt of a melody and ask him to attempt to finish the melody on his own by singing or playing a musical instrument. It is not important if the child can play anything logical at this point, as long as the child is putting some thought into the process, the basic ability of listening and responding will be taught. Expose the child to music through television programming with a heavy emphasis on music, as well as playing music while he works on other activities.


Let him listen to a variety of music and ask him to draw a picture to represent the mood of the music. This will help him to think about the music and express himself in an appropriate way. If he is too young to draw, have him select an image from three possibilities that best reflect the music to which he is listening. Choose images that are contrasting, and at least one of them should reflect an appropriate mood. For instance, an image of a sad person might reflect a sad song.


Play a rhythm on a drum. Make the rhythm short and last less than three seconds. At first, if the toddler gets the right number of notes, but does not play in rhythm, that is enough. Gradually, help her to learn to play rhythms that are more complex and develop the ability to memorize and repeat what she hears. You can do this by playing a rhythm and then taking her hands and guiding her through playing the rhythm back. Eventually, she will develop the coordination and rhythmic sense to complete this activity on her own.


Sing nursery rhymes and lullabies with your child. You should aim to teach melodies such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Practice these songs until he can sing along with you without making any mistakes. As he increases his ability to sing, begin to introduce songs that are more complex and sing rounds with him. For instance, sing the first phrase of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and then have him come in on the second phrase to create a round.


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