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How Music Supports Early Language Acquisition

If you were a fly on the wall in my home, you would be listening to music all day long. As I clean dishes and do laundry I have spotify playing as background noise. My daughter dances along and asks for ‘more’ each time a song ends. The benefits of music go deeper than what meets the eye. Music and language acquisition go hand in hand. 

Language is a multi-tiered system – it involves oral and written words, intonation, multiple meanings, and unspoken elements such as body language. It must be mastered by both parties for successful communication. Music is similar with its many combinations of instruments, language, and tones to denote emotion. 

From birth, humans have the ability to discriminate between different sounds and tones. This is why babies can separate sounds for different languages in bilingual homes. Without the ability to hear the difference in musical tones, language acquisition would be much more challenging. Research suggests that “infants use the musical aspects of language as a scaffolding for the later development of semantic and syntactic aspects of language.” Spoken language involves more than just words. Basic verbal communication is composed of: phonemes (the sounds that make a word), inflection/pitches to denote a question or exclamation, and rhythm (rate and fluency). Activities that incorporate rhythm, chanting, and musical tones help connect the dots for kids. To say it plainly, music is key in supporting language acquisition! As a parent, what can you do at home to bolster language with the help of music? 

Photo by Katie E

When introducing a new song, use visual aids and gestures. Songs like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” have motions that are commonly understood. By using a visual aid such as a picture of a spider or rain, kids will acquire new vocabulary and connect it with its intended meaning. 

Develop rhythm by encouraging your child to clap or tap along with the beat of the song. Since rhythm is important in language, this is an easy way to connect the tempo used to sing with the rhythm of language. Dust off those toy instruments and let your child tap the beat out on a play drum or egg shaker. 

Use music to develop skills needed to understand unspoken aspects of language. Play a song, and then sit your child down and have her draw what she hears. Language involves tones, multiple meanings of words, emotion, and body language. Understanding those subtle nuances is necessary to be an effective communicator.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

I know this is so much easier to say than to do. But the benefits are there! You don’t need a perfect voice or great rhythm to pass these benefits down to your child. Incorporate music into routines that already exist. Play music in the car on the way to school or church. Play music in the background during your child’s playtime or while you are cleaning the house. Make up motions to a new song after lunchtime. Sing a lullaby at bedtime and have your child sing along. Give it a try, and just watch how your child blossoms!

Check out the Reference below for more information:

Music and Early Language Acquisition. Anthony Brandt, Molly Gebrian, L. Robert SlevcFront Psychol. 2012; 3: 327.  Published online 2012 Sep 11. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00327


Published by Bethany Z

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by. I am a Christian, wife, mom, and speech language pathologist. I started this site out of a desire bridge the gap between a traditional therapy setting and the home setting. Parents are the most powerful influencers in a child's developement! My goal is to enable YOU to meet your childs speech needs while sharing glimpses of my life along the way.

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