Part 4 of Worthwhile Toys for the Early Years

Apparently, it’s been over 7 months since I started sharing my list of “totally-worth-the-space-and-money” play items. Today, the list goes on with one of my favorites. I’ve got one that’s truly lasted the test of time, like 30 years, in my family!

12. Musical Instruments

When my oldest sister was in second grade, she took keyboard lessons. Briefly. When she abandoned the musical keyboard, my little sister and I happily took her beginner Casio as ours.  We would add music to just about anything.  Storytelling, our elaborate Barbie scenes, playing school, even our regular speech, because we aspired to live out a real Disney musical. We were the coolest, right?

As I learned to read music and play violin, it was easy to actually play some tunes on the keyboard even if I’d never had piano lessons. Fast forward. That little keyboard eventually became a teaching tool and play toy in my first Pre-K classroom. And I proudly dug it out of my teaching stuff for our firstborn around the age of 10 months.

It has been a true joy to watch his musical ear and appreciation develop over just a few years. It started with some (seemingly) meaningless noise, but he slowly started attending to the different sounds and rhythms to really create something musical. We’ve since added other instruments of course, and will be adding more very soon. (We really want a ukelele! It’ll be a fight between momma and daddy to see who can learn to play it first!) 

Thanks to his love of music and some super cool people we met along the way (especially the Miami Children’s Museum Theatre Players), our love of music has evolved to setting our favorite storybooks to song. Sometimes when we pull out a book, he runs to grab his keyboard. Or a drum (any empty container), a tambourine, or a pretend guitar (like his big plush dinosaur, which he refers to as his “dinosaur guitar”). And we sing and dance, laugh and learn, and enjoy the heck out of each other, and books. We’re like the Trolls, plus books.

I highly recommend adding music to these old and new classics to start out:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault

Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox

Any Sandra Boynton Books (checkout for some free song downloads)

The babies love the keyboard too. They will each sit with deep concentration while almost bubbling over with glee as they experience the sounds produced by touching its keys or buttons. They also love shakers, rhythym sticks, tambourines, and drums. And when they start babbling along in a sing song voice, it’s the cutest thing and might make your heart explode. If you come from a musical background, then your heart will seriously almost beat out of your chest.

Special Note: Don’t worry, children really do learn to keep the volume down low. I usually just cover my ears and say “ouch, too loud” and lower it until the little ones understand. With my 3-year-old, we talk about being considerate of others and respecting the noise around us because we share it with others.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be a keyboard. The big point I wanted to make here is that music play is crucial to exploring sounds, rhythm, movement, and can be used to support reading, dramatization, imaginative play, math concepts, science, and so much more.

But don’t just take my word for it, feel free to read more about the benefits of music in early childhood learning.

The Importance of Music in Early Childhood Development – This actually opens up a whole new can of worms and love of Novak Djokovic for me. Did you know the Novak Djokovic Foundation is dedicated to “giving every child the opportunity to receive a quality preschool education, [thereby] giving them a chance to flourish. To know the joy of success.” Seriously, check it out.

Children and Music: Benefits of Music in Child Development from Bright Horizons

So, embrace the noise.

And, don’t miss out on the rest of this list:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

More coming soon!

For more on purposeful play, see the Rigor in Play Series.

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