Dr. Montessori determined that young children experience a sensitive period for music development between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. There are many benefits to developing a child’s musical ability. In addition to fostering a love of music and the arts, developing musical abilities builds skills related to math and language. It has been shown that music development helps children build pattern recognition and spatial reasoning, both of which are important math skills. Current research also shows that music skills share neural pathways with language development. Building music skills helps develop auditory abilities and phonological awareness, which are necessary for reading development. As well, children who are actively involved with music from an early age are more likely to speak clearly and develop a strong vocabulary. Speech functions are also improved though music. For instance, singing has been known to aid children who have speech impediments such as stuttering.
Music Education in the Montessori Early Childhood Environment
Although there are many benefits to encouraging music development in preschool-age children, we seem to be missing the opportune time to present such activities. Dr. Montessori stated that the sensitive period for developing basic music skills, such as singing in tune and moving rhythmically, happens during the latter half of the first plane of development, 3–6 years old. However, studies suggest that our modern culture’s emphasis on listening to performances instead of participating in music education is causing a two-year developmental delay. For children to fully benefit from their sensitive period for music, they should be given opportunities to actively experience music and movement. The focus should shift from asking children to sit still and listen to encouraging them to move and to play or make music.
Teaching music in the Montessori early childhood environment is not just about singing songs. While that is fun, there is more to presenting music to preschool-age children. The songs you choose can offer children additional learning:
- Songs that focus on rhyming sounds, but not necessarily words, increase language development.
- Singing songs in unusual tonalities improves pitch and pitch recognition.
- Songs and chants with unusual meters not only help rhythm but also improve reading fluency.
- Songs with movement improve motor skills, concentration, and balance.
- Songs in other languages promote Montessori’s idea of cosmic education and broaden cultural awareness.
- Song-based storybooks promote and encourage literacy.
- Ritual songs strengthen the bond between caregiver and child and build community. (Levinowitz, 2013)
To help young children fully benefit from their sensitive period for music, we need to give them numerous and repeated opportunities to practice music in developmentally appropriate ways – at home as well as at school. As Montessori early childhood teachers, we need to explain to parents how important music is and to give them the resources they need to practice music activities with their children at home. To help them do this, remember to include music education in your Montessori parent-education practices. For example, teach parents the songs you use in your classroom. Share your clean-up song with them, for instance, so they can use it at home too. Do you have a song with fun hand movements? Teach it at your next parent night. During your back-to-school night, include a family sing-along. Try presenting a song that had no words or only nonsense words, keeping the focus on the music rather than the lyrics.
The best way to help children become musically competent is to approach music as we do math and language. We must make the learning developmentally appropriate, model music elements in our daily life, and encourage families to support and include music at home.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, November 2, 2018.