If you’ve ever been to an early childhood music class you have probably noticed that some programs have songs that encourage parents and caregivers to bounce babies and toddlers. By why is that? When the importance of music in early childhood first came to light in the 90’s, the general understanding was that exposing babies to classical music, particularly Mozart’s, would make them “smart”. Even though that particular idea has been debunked, music educators and scientists have continued to explore the importance of music learning in childhood – as well as later in life - and have found promising links between musical training and creativity, literacy, and social emotional skills.
We know today, however, that playing recorded music to children while they are engaging in a different activity it is not enough. Active music appreciation and music making are much more effective tools both for musical learning and the beneficial “side effects” discussed above. When children are 3 years or older, they are ready to take on the world, and that includes voluntarily singing, dancing, and even making their own songs. At that age, it is common for music teachers to make good use of all their new found abilities and encourage children to tap to the beat of the songs, clap the rhythm or even move to songs in order to develop their musicality. The more they do it, the easier it is to internalize certain music concepts and develop their musical skills.
When children are younger, however, we have to find new ways to help them actively experience music even if developmentally they are not quite ready to do it on their own: that is where bounces come in! When babies and toddlers are bounced, they experience how rhymes and songs feel in their bodies even before they can move to music or sing on their own (Wood, 1997). Bouncing to music is a natural response for children and it helps them make a connection between what they are hearing and what they are feeling and that is how they start to develop a sense of beat and rhythm.
When bouncing children in class, we purposefully focus on one aspect of music (beat, rhythm, tempo, etc.) in order to encourage them to internalize that one in each activity so children can naturally internalize those skills while simply having fun. And if you are interested on the non-musical benefits of bouncing to music, research has shown that bouncing in synchrony with others encourages social bounds. (Cirelli, Einarson & Trainor, 2014, p. 1) So when in doubt, bounce!
Wood, D. (1997). Move, Sing, Listen, Play. Toronto: Gordon V. Thompson.
Young, S. (2016) Early childhood music education research: An overview. Research Studies in Music Education, 38(1), 9-21.