Go Ad-Free Sign up

How To Develop Your Child's Ear for Music and Sense of Rhythm?

Nov. 5, 2021

Could your child be bilingual? Music is often referred to as the universal language. As parents, we try to provide opportunities to a wide variety of activities that stimulate cognitive brainwork, like engaging in music-related activities. Getting musical brings your child the following benefits:

  • It builds motor planning, coordination, and sensory development.
  • It enhances the development of mathematical and spatial abilities, including pattern recognition, counting, organizing, and timing.
  • It can help enhance memory abilities, language development, literacy the assistance of alphabet, number, and rhyming songs.
  • It creates opportunities to learn important skills like “cause and effect” and bolstering social-emotional development.

You can find out more information about how music influences children’s development here.

If you are noticing that your child is enthusiastic about music – listening, singing, dancing – and at the same time struggles with grasping musical concepts such as rhythm or melody, try some of the strategies below to help your child reap the advantages of musical practice and engagement.

Find the Beat

It is simple to implement exercises in which you and your child listen to music and are asked to discover and move along to the regular beat of any music by marching around or clapping your hands. Encourage them to move on specific beats (like every other beat) or to pose differently on each beat.

Activities that require kids to move in in a synchronized manner improve motor coordination and foster interpersonal relationships among members of their peer group. Some examples are the Bingo Song and “The Name Game” where children clap in a circle and say each person’s name around the circle with the beat.

Feel the Rhythm

Musical rhythm exercises can help contribute to the development of language processing, motor skills, and social cohesion. One way to do this is to have your child clap along with certain spoken silly phrases, such as “ham-burgers and hot dogs” or “I like pick-le juice!”  Easily practice rhythm with the engaging Halloween version of Hickory Dickory Dock. If that was a mouthful, let your child have fun singing more nursery rhymes with Kids Academy learning app.


Rhythmic turn-taking tasks can assist in developing attention and temporal pattern memory. To begin, you can play a beat (clapping, stomping, using simple percussion instruments, etc.) while your child listens, then they mimic the rhythm. You can begin with a simple pattern and gradually increase the complexity, movement requirements, and length. Once they have mastered copying you, they can create their own patterns where your child creates a rhythm, and you or their siblings can play along.

Children can also be asked to dance to music that accelerates (or decelerates) in tempo. Incorporate tempo changes into dancing and singing activities. Children can clap a constant beat to a drum track or piece of music. After achieving a steady beat, an adult lowers the level and fades the music out, leaving the child to maintain it without it. Within seconds, the adult can fade the music back in and your child can test their ability to keep the beat without it. Adaptive and self-based timing can be more difficult than other musical tasks, where children must keep the beat with changing tempo and are encouraged to keep an internal (imagined) beat. Utilizing activities like these enhances conversational skills and motor planning through the development of temporal prediction skills.


Sense Melody and Pitch

Giving your young child a solid conceptual understanding of pitch from an early age will assist in fortifying musical skills. Children should first understand that pitch is the degree of how high or low a note or sound is.

A great beginner activity for learning pitch is called “The Growing Seed.”  This kinesthetic activity allows children to move or “grow” with their perception of when the pitch moves higher and higher. Children can begin this game by curling up on the floor like a seed. Sing or play (on a simple instrument) an ascending scale, they should move their body to grow like a tree with each higher note. If your child enjoys it, try these learning games

 Visual learning can help increase a person's understanding of pitch. Picture sorting is a fantastic way to develop visual intelligence. Print out a variety of animals and everyday objects and sort the sounds into categories of pitch (such as high, low, and medium, or try to arrange from lowest to highest). You can also practice making your own sounds!

Sing Songs

Singing develops more than just musical abilities. It’s also a great way to boost literacy, numeracy, and vocabulary skills. Play If You’re Happy to encourage social-emotional development. Look to Ants Go Marching and 10 in the Bed to practice counting and number sense.  Silly verses can help promote imagination and creativity, like in the song Down by the Bay.

Rhyming and prediction often go hand in hand. Rhymes can assist kids to learn to predict what will happen next --"if this line finishes with ‘play’, the following line must end with a sound like ‘-ay’." Singing the same song repeatedly to your young child will help them learn to anticipate what will happen next ("Mom is going to swing me around when she says, 'And we all fall down'!").

Singing songs is a great way to instill routines and transitions. For a young child, familiar melodies provide a sense of security. Using songs in reinforcing routines (such as bedtime) and indicating when it's time to switch activities (“The Clean-up Song”) encourages your child to engage in their routine in a familiar and fun way. Visit our YouTube collection to sing all your child’s favorite tunes here: Best Kids Songs Collection | Kids Academy.

Music should always feel good and be fun, so if you feel like your child is frustrated with a particular activity, set it aside to foster positive experiences around these activities. Follow their lead, don’t seek perfectionism, and use music as a special opportunity to bond with your child. Visit our Parenting Blog if you are looking for more information about different aspects of your child’s development and academic needs.

About the author

Julie Sheard - Educator and Specialized Instructional Assistant.
United States, CA, Felton

Links and references

  1.  https://www.learningpotential.gov.au/articles/musical-benefits
  2.  https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/music-theory/creative-ways-teach-children/
  3.  https://meaningfulmama.com/teaching-music-to-kids-a-lesson-in-rhythm.html
  4.  https://bestdigitalpianoguides.com/tips-for-developing-rhythm-sense-for-kids/
  5.  https://www.yoremikids.com/news/rhythm-tempo-music-for-child-development
Desktop version