Music and language skills

We all love rhythm and music. It’s an innate need that is ‘built-in’ to our brains. Have you ever heard a song from your childhood or school years, which you haven’t heard for 20+ years, and yet you still know the tune and most of the words? It’s amazing how our brain links words with music and how we can remember such long sequences of words when they’re coupled with music!

Our ancestors used rhythm and music for tens of thousands of years, to tell stories, share knowledge, to celebrate and to communicate with the ‘spirit world’.

Today, we use music and rhymes for enjoyment, to soothe, to inspire, to celebrate and also to learn. Music is a particularly very powerful tool to help children to learn and develop their language skills. We can use music to help teach children:

  • new vocabulary – action words, labels / nouns, descriptive words
  • language concepts – colours, numbers, sizes, prepositions (ie. ‘up, down, under, in, out’)
  • to tell stories – to explore ideas / morals, introduce rules
  • to talk about emotions – happy, sad, frustrated, angry
  • early literacy skills – letters / sounds of the alphabet, rhyming

Children’s rhymes and songs can also be used to help children with their attention skills and to help them listen to and follow instructions. Music, nursery rhymes and singing are often things we enjoy and participate in with other people, which can also help children develop their social skills, such as eye contact, joint attention and turn taking.

So, how can we add some more music into our children’s daily lives? Here are some ideas:

Use songs or rhythms during your day-to-day routines

For example, when your child is brushing their teeth, you can sing, “This is way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth…”. You can also use this song for washing at bath time, brushing hair, putting socks/shoes on, etc. and just change the words to suit your situation.

Use rhythm or songs when your child is having difficulties following instructions

Time to get in the car? Try using rhythm and “stomp” to the car, ie. “Stomp. Stomp. Stomp-stomp-stomp”. Your child will be focussing on the rhythm and ‘stomping’ and not on the actual task of walking to the car. Win-win!

Sing nursery rhymes, but encourage your child to finish every second line

For example,     “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

                            How I wonder what you… (pause and wait for your child to say “are”)

                            Up above the world so high.

                            Like a diamond in the… [sky]”

This starts to help your child create an awareness of rhyming – a precursor skill for reading!

If you’re stuck for ideas or needs some inspiration, check out some resources:

Listen to Little Rockers Radio for a variety of kids songs! The more modern children’s music has been carefully researched and crafted to be educational and fun for kids. If you’re feeling particularly creative, you can have some fun and ‘re-work’ some old favourite nursery rhymes and personalise them to your family! The sky’s the limit!

“Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand” – Stevie Wonder


This article is written by Robyn Bishop, Little Parrots Speech Pathology Services

Robyn, the proud founder of Little Parrots Speech Pathology Services, has developed her professional skills as a Paediatric Speech Pathologist over a number of years. Having worked in a Early Childhood Intervention Program in Melbourne, alongside an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist, Movement therapist, Early Childhood Intervention Teacher and a Social Worker she had the opportunity to learn and enrich her knowledge about transdisciplinary strategies and understand the holistic needs of children with additional needs while working on speech and language strategies.

Robyn provides speech pathology services for families in the Knox, Maroondah, Monash and Casey areas and surrounding suburbs.