Music to promote early language

Katy Mitchell. With thanks to Nicole Da Rocha for her support and advice.| View as single page | Feedback/Impact

Pre-verbal skills

Before babies say their first words, there are vital pre-verbal skills that need to be developed.

Eye contact is important for social interaction and is a vital skill to aid communication. Promoting good eye contact will help a child get more information from facial expressions and gestures.  Attention is another vitally important pre-verbal skill that is key to language development. A child needs to be able to focus on an activity long enough to attach meaning and promote learning and understanding. This video explains how to develop eye contact.

Singing songs with young children can help to promote these pre-verbal skills. The additional information provided through rhythm and intonation makes the voice more interesting and engaging. Whether a parent is singing a soothing lullaby to their baby or an upbeat song, the facial expressions, swaying movements, eye gaze and melody, lure the child to give eye contact and captivates their attention. With daily repetition, enjoying music with your child in this way, will help to develop these vital pre-verbal skills, which need to be established as the building blocks for future language development and speech.

Copying is another important pre-verbal skill as it is dependent on interaction. Similarly turn-taking is the cooperation of exchange which underpins all communication. Singing songs such as 'Round and round the garden' or 'Twinkle twinkle Little Star', with simple actions repeated over and over again, will provide your child with the familiarity to be able to start to copy your actions and vocalisations. The forward and back movement of 'Row row row your boat,' provides a young child with a physical experience of the give and take experience of communication. This video shows how parents take turns with their child.

A study using the BabyBeats early intervention resource, was conducted to evaluate the benefits of early musical activities. Babies under 12 months old (with severe to profound hearing loss) and children over 12 months, with cochlear implants took part in an eight month trial. Increased vocalisation and attention skills were reported at the end of the trial. Ideas from the musical habilitation resource had become part of the family's daily routine and parents were more confident in engaging their baby in music, movement and play (Rocca, 2015).



BBC, Tiny Happy People. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 April, 2021].

Rocca, C. (2015) 'Developing the musical brain to boost early pre-verbal, communication and listening skills: The implications for musicality development pre- and post-cochlear implantation. It is not just about Nursery Rhymes!' Cochlear Implants International, 16 sup 3, S32-S38.