Using music as a means to improve communication skills is not a new concept. If you walk into any preschool classroom across the country you will learn that singing children’s songs is a daily occurrence and for good reason. In addition to other numerous benefits, listening to and signing children’s songs encourages development in auditory processing skills, auditory memory, working memory, attention skills, fluency, expressive language, articulation skills, as well as volume, speech rate, intonation, prosody and rhythm control.
Here are ten different ways you can incorporate music in your child’s daily environment to facilitate growth in communication skills:
1. Sing, sing a song!: Simply spending time singing children’s songs encourages language development by improving expressive vocabulary, learning pre-academic skills (counting, colors, etc.), improving auditory comprehension skills as well as memory.
2. Smooth sailing!: Singing familiar songs slowly facilitates smooth speech for children who are struggling with fluency (stuttering). Repetition and slow tempo is the key!
3. Sing out loud, sing out strong!: Singing familiar songs while changing the volume (whisper, quiet, loud voices) helps your child practice volume control in a fun, stress-free way. This is the first step to understanding appropriate volume control in various communication situations. Once a child can control his/her volume, vocal abuse can be consciously reduced for those with voice disorders.
4. Speedometer!: Changing the tempo of familiar songs aids in helping children understand they can control their rate of speech. For those with fluency disorders (stuttering), it also helps to illustrate how using a slower rate of speech (or singing) improves fluency. You can begin at the typical song tempo and sing faster and slower throughout verses in order to demonstrate these skills.
5. Speed bump!: Stopping and resuming songs in the middle of verses actually encourages child participating in singing as well as increases a child’s anticipation of what is coming next. You need to use your working memory (recalling where you stopped and where to start up again) for this task as well.
6. Feel the beat!: Begin by imitating your child's "beats" and then have them try to imitate yours. As they grow, practice clapping your hands or using musical instruments (play, real, or homemade) to tap out the rhythm of songs. Children will to listen to rhythm and beat of songs and will realize the faster the song, the faster the beat. They will begin to understand how speech rate can change from fast to slow as well as improve understanding of prosody and rhythm. Ats also a great auditory processing task as you can use multiple instruments to make different "beats".
7. Name that tune!: You remember this game…hum a familiar tune to your child and have them guess what song it is or, if they are too young to remember song titles, they can sing along with your tune. This is a great auditory processing task requiring your child to listen carefully to the intonation and prosody patterns of songs and use their memory to recall the song name or words.
8. The Song Bee!: (Just like the show on the CMT channel) Have your child finish the verse to a familiar song you started to sing. Work on correct syntax (organization of words), grammar (speech term-morphology), vocabulary (speech term-semantics), articulation (correct sound production), and auditory memory skills.
9. Finger plays!: are a fun easy way to add visual cues to songs. This give a child gross and fine motor movement while reciting songs. You can use props, finger puppets, just your hands or grand gross motor gestures to make it really fun!
10. Name that instrument!: This is one of my favorit games to play! You can use previously recorded music or child friendly instruments for this game. I like to use my “band in a box” which you see above. Have your child watch/listen at you label and play each musical instrument so they can attach visual and auditory input to that instrument. Then they can turn around or blindfold them and have them guess which instrument you are playing. This is a fun activity for vocabulary development, category development, auditory discrimination and memory!