What Can Music Therapy Do For Your Toddler?

How Music Therapy is Helping Tots Explore and Express Their Emotions.

Music therapy is employed in many contexts, but one particular situation where music therapy is exceptionally constructive is with children! For the same reasons that we often teach kids through songs (because we usually have an easier time getting through to children with music) music therapy is an amazing resource for children who may be on the autism spectrum or who may struggle with anxiety, ADD, or ADHD, to help  them to convey their emotions. With children, who’s speech and communication skills are still developing, music helps to stimulate the brain in such a way that is conducive to a growth of self awareness and helps them to communicate about their feelings and the things they may be struggling with. 

Here is the Information You Need to Know About Music Therapy for Toddlers:

  • How Music Therapy Assists with Speech Development and Communication Skills
  • How Music Therapy Works for Children 
  • The Positive Outcomes of Music Therapy for Children
Two children sitting in some grass wearing brightly colored clothes, one is holding up a microphone.
Music helps kids to engage with what they’re learning and is often a motivator to get them to be focused in class.

How Music Therapy Assists with Speech Development and Communication Skills

Children who may be struggling with their level of comfortability with speaking find music therapy is an amazing resource. A German study that focused on music therapy in children in particular found that music therapy helped children further develop their speech patterns. One reason why this was possible was in how it got children to adapt to rhythms in speech patterns. It can be difficult to pick up on the rhythm of a conversation, as there is usually no uniformity to it. For children, or even people learning a new language, this can even make it difficult to tell where certain words are beginning and ending when hearing someone speak. With music though, there is a consistent tempo that the words being spoken fit within. This makes it easier to distinguish what is being said and how to speak for yourself. By matching the words to the beats of the music children were able to progress in their speech development much more quickly than children who were not engaging with music therapy. 

Another reason that children's speech develops at a faster rate when they are engaging with music is simply because it is more fun for them. If a child is offered the opportunity to play or listen to music then they are more likely to be engaged than they may be in a non musical setting. For example, in classrooms, music is used to help children engage with learning or memorizing new information because their teachers know they will be having more fun when learning that way.It also helps them to be more focused. This is also partially due to the fact that music causes activity in both hemispheres of the brain in a way that is not seen in speaking or writing activities. This state of heightened engagement helps children to be able to express their thoughts and emotions with more confidence and comfortability.

Four kids sitting on steps making silly faces and holding up thumbs up signs
Music therapy can drastically increase children’s confidence and help them to reach out and make new friends

How Music Therapy Works for Children

 If a child is in an individual music therapy session they may do several activities with their music therapist. Often a music therapist will play music with their patient, or they may listen to a piece of music with their patient. Many music therapists have a greeting song of sorts that helps kids get in the right mindset for starting a music therapy session. Music therapists also work to find songs or types of music that help the children they are working with to slow their breathing/heart rates and relax. Drumming in particular is a really fun way to get kids engaged and help them to build their confidence up. Every music therapist will have their own preferred techniques for getting kids to engage with music and express their emotions so these are just a few examples of activities that kids may be doing in music therapy sessions. 

Children in an auditorium holding up colorful ukuleles
Group music therapy sessions can help children further their comfortability in social situations and improve their spatial awareness and fine motor skills.

The Positive Outcomes of Music Therapy for Children

Music therapy has other incredible benefits for children aside from accelerating their cognitive development. Music therapy also assists children in gaining more confidence. When children are able to get confidence boosts like this they are also better equipped to face social situations that may have been stressful to them before. This increased social confidence is a great motivator to try out music therapy for many children but especially those who may be struggling with anxiety. For kids who may be on the autism spectrum too and are looking for ways to engage with other kids around them music is a great motivator to do this and it helps relieve some of the stress of reaching out to people and starting conversations.

Another benefit that music therapy has in helping children learn is that it improves fine motor skills. When a child is playing a musical instrument they are honing those cognitive skills that are in charge of fine motor skills. Especially if children are playing music with another person (or with several other people if they are in a group music therapy session) they have to be more spatially aware so the part of the musical piece they are playing is syncing up right with the other parts being played. This simultaneous exercising of the parts of the brain responsible for fine motor skills and spatial awareness makes music therapy incredibly enriching for children. 
Music therapy is a great resource for people of all ages. For toddlers and other young children in particular though the benefits seem endless! It improves not only a childs’ mental health (their social comfortability, their speech development, their communication skills) but also their physical state (fine motor skills and spatial awareness). All of these things help children to process their emotions and assist in their communication of those emotions. Clear communication is often a difficult undertaking for young children. They are still learning to interpret what they hear from the adults around them so communicating their own experiences to adults can be quite difficult. Music therapy helps toddlers ease the wide range of anxieties which can be caused by problems they may be having when trying to communicate.

Lily Taggart
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