Singing and Playing

It is a wonderful experience to watch your child engage in singing and “playing” an instrument.


Sara is playing with her dolls in her bedroom; she says, “I know you’re sleepy, dolly. Let’s go to sleep now.” Sara begins to sing her dolly a lullaby. “Hush, little baby, don’t say a word. Mama’s gonna buy you a mocking bird, and if that bird won’t sing, Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring. Shh!” As Sara sings the song she speaks some of it and sings some of it; this results in her losing the pitch and tempo. When Sara places “shh” sounds at the end of the song, she is making reference to being quiet so the dolly can sleep.


Sara demonstrates she is in the rhythm babble stage of music development; this is indicated by her inability to keep tempo, pitch, or rhythm. This is appropriate, however, because at this stage of development the skill reflects a simple musical experience between Sara and her dolly.

Your child is learning music in much the same way she learned language. For example, after listening to the sounds of her native language, she began to babble, experimenting with speech sounds. Soon afterward, she imitated words and used them meaningfully in phrases and sentences.

Musical sound is created to express ideas that your child has in her head. She creates music and responds to music.

Your child starts the stage with music babble, in which she makes sounds that do not make musical sense. She will move into tonal babble next, in which she sings in a speaking voice. In rhythm babble she will make voice sounds that are not on tempo. By the time she is four, she has started to be able to sing most of a short song correctly.

Picking up an instrument will help your child express herself and support social development. She will love to experiment with a variety of instruments with you and other children as she learns to work with others to create sounds. This enables her to create sound pat terns with her instrument, her body, and her voice. Have you observed your child making noises with her armpits? Even though it may not sound like a musical sound, it is your child trying to make sound patterns with her body as the instrument.

This age is a great time to open up your child’s musical world by having her take music lessons. You would not start vocal lessons because your child is not at that stage of development. You could start her on an instrument as she is developing fine motor (small muscle) skills at a rapid pace.

Picking an instrument for your child is exciting; often parents pick something they wished they knew how to play; however, it is more important to pick an instrument based on your child’s personality. Below are some instruments to think about.

1. Does your child like being the center of attention? Flutes are great; many musical compositions contain flute solos.

2. Is your child outgoing? Saxophones and trumpets are good as they are lead instruments.

3. Do you have a petite child? Bassoons are ideal for small children.

4. Does your child have large hands or long fingers? Pianos are a desirable choice.

Whatever instrument you choose for your child, when you choose one that suits her personality you create a more supportive experience that is set up for long-term success.

Expose your child to different instruments and sounds by listening to music, visiting an instrument store, and watching a live ensemble performance in your community or local civic center.