Music for the Speech and Language Learning Brain

Small kids

By Jessica Drake-Simmons

I am a terrible singer.  Trust me, you don’t want to hear me. But kids are wonderful and nonjudgmental. They don’t seem to mind my off key voice or lyrics that aren’t quite as good as the original song. In my years working as a speech therapist, I have realized that music is such an effective and fun way to develop speech and language skills.

Music is truly something powerful. Our brains like the repetition, predictability and rhythm that songs provide. Have you ever noticed how you can remember every word to a song that you haven’t heard in years, yet you can’t seem to remember the password for your bank account, which you use on a regular basis?

Singing can be beneficial if you want your child to work on any of the following skills:

  • Focus her attention on you (and maybe let her laugh at your silliness)
  • Imitate movements
  • Follow directions
  • Increase attention span
  • Produce vocalizations
  • Produce words or phrases
  • Practice a targeted speech sound
  • Strengthen memory

Music activates different parts of the brain that are not typically activated in speech. Research has found that music can be beneficial for kids with autism, childhood apraxia of speech, English language learners, receptive language delays and expressive language delays.

Songs can teach a wide variety of skills including:

  • Concepts (counting, colors, location words, descriptions)
  • Categorization
  • Associations
  • Sequencing
  • New vocabulary
  • Sentence structure
  • Rhyme
  • Imagination

How to sing with your child:

  • Add movement—make it fun!
  • Pause to allow your child to fill in a portion of a repeated phrase.
  • Increase comprehension by providing visuals or props related to your song
  • Simplify lyrics to a level your child can understand
  • Slow the song down to help increase comprehension and provide your child an increased ability to sing along (for this reason, recorded music may not be a great option)

Sing a familiar favorite like: 5 Little Monkeys, Old Macdonald, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, BINGO or Baby Bumble Bee.

Or, perhaps even better, make up your own words to a familiar tune to match the activity that you are doing…

Hi-ho, hi-ho its off to the bathroom we go.

We brush our teeth. We comb our hair.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, hi-ho.

Or how about…

This is the way we put on our shoes.

Put on our shoes. Put on our shoes.

This is the way we put on our shoes

In the morning.

Can’t carry a tune? Can’t think of a word to rhyme with ‘orange’? I’ve been there. Don’t worry! Kids don’t judge! Play with it, have fun and your child will love it!

Check out these websites for additional ideas:

This website provides song lyrics for just about every area of speech and language:

15 Fabulous Fingerplays and Facts

Printable Puppets—Increase comprehension and make your song come to life!


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