Using songs with children
Songs are entertaining and enjoyable to children. Songs encourage children to learn to use their senses to explore the world around them. It is well-established that they support the development of many domains, including language, motor, social and academic (Bright Horizons, 2022). It also encourages relationship building and bonding between a parent and child. Thus, it is unsurprising that they are typically incorporated into teaching and learning at home and in schools. However, there are also some drawbacks to using songs that tend to get overlooked. It includes the detrimental impact on sleep and concentration in some circumstances.
Pros of using songs as a tool for children
Many parents understand that songs can not only be used for entertainment purposes but also education. As mentioned, there are many benefits to using songs with children, whether it is time for fun or learning.
Songs encourage early language development as children get exposed to a wide range of vocabulary, such as the labels of their body parts and objects in their daily lives. Through listening and observing, children can pick up on the appropriate use of new words and language patterns. When catchy rhythms and melodies are repeated and become familiar, it makes it easier to retain them in memory.
Songs promote motor development by encouraging children to move to the rhythm of the music, even before they can even begin to comprehend any lyrics. When children are engaged in songs and moving to the beat, their muscle development, strength, and balance are at work and improving. As such, this supports the further development of gross and motor skills and overall coordination.
Songs can also promote socio-emotional development by providing opportunities to interact and socialize in group settings. A recent study by Kirschner and Tomasello (2010) indicates that integrating songs into learning increased helpful behaviors and cooperation among 4-year-old children. Such findings highlight the positive effects of using songs in group settings. In addition, songs also promote emotional regulation as children are encouraged to explore emotions and ways to express and regulate them. For instance, there are various helpful songs about feelings and using adaptive practices to manage negative feelings (e.g., anger, frustration), such as by taking a break. Therefore, using songs can not only improve communication skills but also support the development of emotional skills such as empathy and self-regulation that would prepare them for building relationships with others in the future.
Besides language skills, songs also promote the development of other academic skills such as numeracy, attentional and memory skills. Fun rhythms in songs can encourage early numeracy skills, such as the identification of numbers and the concept of counting through familiarity with the sounds and words (e.g., eight, nine, ten!), especially with repetition. Further, repetition promotes general attentional and memory skills by providing increased exposure and practice to aid children in mastering new skills. Together, songs can encourage the development of numerous fundamental skills crucial for future academic success.
Cons of using songs as a tool for children
Adverse impact on sleep quality
One potential disadvantage of using songs with your children is poorer sleep quality. Although it is known that songs can help children fall asleep, various studies have indicated that they may potentially cause adverse impacts. According to Scullin (2021), listening to songs before bed can cause earworms, which refers to involuntary music imagery when a song or tune replays in one’s mind. Earworms may contribute to disruption in sleep and poorer sleep quality in general. Furthermore, the health risk of using songs before sleep would increase further when they are played at high volumes, as this can cause significant irreversible damage to one’s hearing. Thus, although music is generally believed to improve sleep quality, too much of it can cause detrimental effects on one’s health.
Detrimental effect on concentration
In a learning environment, songs can also be a distraction from tasks. Based on research by Salamé and Baddeley (1989), when one is listening to music while performing tasks that involve the use of working memory, which requires the holding and manipulating of information in one’s mind, performance is likely to decrease as concentration is impaired. In addition, according to the same research, music with vocals is found to be more disruptive than those that are instrumental. These findings illustrate how using songs can be more disadvantageous than favorable and the importance of only using them when appropriate. On the same note, parents and teachers must be mindful while using songs as a tool when a child potentially has sensory processing issues or sensitivities, particularly with sounds.
Striking the balance
In summary, research indicates a consensus that songs are more beneficial than disadvantageous, particularly in a learning environment. Integrating songs in learning supports many different areas of development in children and is enjoyable for children. It can also help parents connect with their children while they help them grasp new concepts. However, in certain circumstances, the use of songs may lose its value or even be disadvantageous. Thus, it is imperative that they are not overused and their potential for harm is considered.
Bright Horizons, (2022, February 25). Children and music: Benefits of music in child development. https://www.brighthorizons.com/resources/Article/music-and-children-rhythm-meets-child-development
Kirschner, S., & Tomasello, M. (2010). Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 354-364.
Salamé, P., & Baddeley, A. (1989). Effects of Background Music on Phonological Short-Term Memory. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A, 41(1), 107–122. https://doi.org/10.1080/14640748908402355
Scullin, M. K., Gao, C., & Fillmore, P. (2021). Bedtime music, involuntary musical imagery, and sleep. Psychological Science, 32(7), 985-997.