Music to promote early language

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


Between 12 and 18 months, a child will understand many phrases from play and day to day routines. Regular singing of simple songs will promote understanding. A child who has heard the words of the song 'Round and Round the Garden' over and over again, will know to volunteer their hand at the mention of the words, for a parent to draw a circle with their finger in the palm of their hand. Understanding is promoted by the rhythm and intonation used, so it is much easier to understand familiar rhymes and songs, where words are naturally  supported by these musical qualities. Before a child says their first words, they will attach meaning to objects and will be able to identify many things. Singing songs can be used to extend and broaden a young child's vocabulary.

Musical activities at this age will help to promote turn taking and co-operation skills that are the foundations of interacting with others.

A toddler will enjoy dancing and moving to music, which will help their coordination and gross motor skills.

Hearing songs will promote listening skills and auditory memory.

In the second year of life 'young children wishing to engage in social interaction will do so most effectively by mastering the ambient language and learning the rules governing interaction' (Buckley, 2006:65). Songs and rhymes help a child to effectively learn the rules of interaction by promoting looking, smiling, turn-taking, vocalisations and words. The short nature of most childrens' rhymes and songs promote a natural end at the completion of the song and a pause before repeating or singing another song. This appropriately models a pause between interactions, an important concept in developing turns in conversation.

Information about the reasons why music is important in pre-schools and nurseries is provided here


Music with your toddler

  • Continue to use repetitive song with actions.
  • Sing using your child's toys and picture books to promote meaning. For example sing, 'Old MacDonald had a farm' with an animal picture book or with toy animals as you make the different animal sounds.
  • Introduce counting rhymes in the toddler years, as these have lots of repetition. Count on your fingers to reinforce meaning.
  • Add your own words to make the songs meaningful. For example to the tune of 'Here we go round the Mulberry Bush', sing 'This is the way we clap our hands' or 'clean our teeth', 'brush our hair', 'put on our shoes' etc. The possibilities are endless.
  • Clap the beat together to songs and move to the music.
  • Dance together moving round in a circle for songs like 'Ring a Ring o'Roses.'
  • Lots of traditional nursery rhymes and finger rhymes will be appropriate at this stage.
  • Continue to use BabyBeats and then introduce the Musical Journey Programme.


Song ideas
The Wheels on the Bus
Old McDonald had a Farm
Here we go round the Mulberry Bush
If you're happy and you know it clap your hands
Hickory Dickory Dock
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Humpty Dumpty
Jack and Jill
Five Fat Sausages
Five Little Ducks
Five Little Men in a Flying Saucer
I'm a little teapot



Buckley, B. (2006) Children's communication skills from birth to five years. Oxford:Routledge.

Kindermusik. Minds on Music - The Kindermusik Blog. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 16 April, 2021].