Music to promote early language

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

Music to promote early language

This MESHGuide has been written for parents, early years practitioners and professionals working with very young children, to highlight the importance of music in the first five years of life.

The starting point is listening in the womb, where a baby responds to its mother's voice as early as 16 weeks gestation (Shahidullah & Hepper, 1992). The rhythm and intonation experienced by a baby before birth, is the foundation of language.

Extensive and longitudinal studies have shown the positive impact of music on brain development and this work is ongoing. Research has shown that early experiences have a significant impact on brain development and that there is a sensitive period within the first three and a half years of a child's life (Sharma et al. 2009). The first twelve months of life are critical for developing the sensory pathways, language and cognitive function (Nelson, 2000) and the rate at which the brain grows and develops in the first year of life, is greater than at other time after birth (Kretschmann et al. 1986).

Music is a tool for learning language and research has shown that music in the early years can benefit all areas of development.

This guide is one in a series of Deaf Education MESHGuides produced by the BATOD Foundation. Links are provided to the Understanding Hearing Loss MESHGuide, which provides information about the nature and degree of hearing loss, amplification and ways to help.



Kretschmann, H., Kammradt, G., Krauthausen,I., Sauer, B., Wingert, F. (1986) 'Brain growth in man'. Bibliotheca Anatomica. Jan.1986 (28) pp.1–26.

Nelson, C. University of Minnesota (2000) Human Brain Development. In Neurons to Neighborhoods:The Science of Early Childhood Development.  National Research Council (US) and Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development. Shonkoff, J & Phillips, D. ed. Washington (DC). National Academies Press (US). pg.188.

Shahidullah, S. & Hepper, P. (1992) 'Hearing in the foetus: pre-natal detection of deafness'. International Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Studies. 4(3/4) pp. 235-240.

Sharma,A., Nash, A. Dorman, M (2009) 'Cortical development, plasticity and re-organization in children with cochlear implant'. Journal of Communication Disorders/ Volume 42, Issue 4, July-August 2009 pp. 272-279.