People often say that music is a universal language. We can connect and communicate through eccentric melodies, whimsical arrangements, or the simplest rhythmic beat. If you’ve ever seen your toddler naturally start to bounce to music or bang his hands on a table when he hears a beat, it’s easy to see that this is true. You don’t have to explain the concept of music to him – he just gets it!
Lots of studies show that music has a profound effect on young children’s brains. New research shows that making music has even more developmental benefits than simply listening to music or observing someone play an instrument. This is one of the reasons why it’s so beneficial for toddlers to experiment with musical instruments. More specifically, allowing toddlers to play percussion instruments — those that are hit, scratched, slapped, or tapped (think drums, maracas, or a piano) can be incredibly valuable to their development. Read on to learn why.
Developmental Benefits of Playing with Musical Instruments
Giving your little one an instrument to play with helps:
- Build fine and gross motor skills. Experimenting with musical instruments promotes physical development in a variety of ways. For instance, drumming with an open hand can help build gross motor skills, while learning to tap each finger on a piano or hold a drumstick strengthens fine motor skills.
- Support sensory development. Movement, balance, hearing, and touch are all involved as your toddler learns to hold and play different instruments. He begins to understand, for example, that banging a drum slowly and softly creates a different sound than banging it quickly and forcefully.
- Enhance hand-eye coordination. Playing with a piano or drums continuously engages your toddler’s hand-eye coordination skills.
- Teach patience and perseverance. As your child gets older, learning to really play an instrument will require time and focus. But even now, mimicking you create a simple beat can teach your toddler patience and perseverance, and give him a sense of accomplishment.
- Accelerate brain development. A study conducted in 2016 at the University of Southern California found that young children who played instruments experienced an increase in brain development in comparison to those who did not. Researchers specifically saw growth in the areas of the brain that are responsible for language development, speech perception, sound processing, and reading skills.
Best Musical Instruments for Toddlers
As we mentioned above, percussion instruments are some of the best developmental toys for toddlers. Anything they can bang, clang, shake, scratch, tap or hit will work just fine! Remember that you don’t necessarily have to spend a dime when it comes to experimenting with music and musical instruments. A good ol’ fashion wooden spoon with a few pots and pans will do the trick, but if you’re interested in investing in something more concrete, here are a few suggestions:
- Piano or keyboard
- Bongo drums
- Snare drum
- Rhythm sticks
Now it’s time to go make some music with your little one!