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Enjoying music and movement with whānau helps children's learning, creates a happy atmosphere, and is fun!

A newborn emerges from a world of sound and rhythm, so it’s no wonder that enjoying music and songs seems to come naturally to babies and young children. Many parents use rocking, humming or singing with their little babies to help calm, settle or entertain them.

Tapping and banging

A pēpi with a wooden spoon and a pot will immediately begin some type of tapping, banging, and rhythm making. As children grow, their enjoyment and interest in making music and singing continues. Music enhances many skills that support further learning, including concentration, confidence, and cognitive and memory skills. Above all, it’s fun.


Music and singing expose children to a wider world of other languages and cultures, instruments, dances and movement. Learning to follow a song establishes the building blocks for other types of learning. For example, recognising same and different, and identifying the repeating patterns involved in songs and rhymes, are early reading and maths skills.

Enjoying music together

When children, their parents and whānau enjoy musical experiences like singing, dancing, learning rhymes and doing finger plays together, the benefits are multiple. Neural pathways are strengthened for physical co-ordination, communication (speaking and listening), and emotional wellbeing.

Some parents feel uncomfortable singing, or think they can’t sing in tune, but their toddler won’t care. A child at this stage will want to do anything their parents are doing, especially when their parents look like they’re having fun!

Joining in

The best way to encourage children to enjoy musical activities is to join in with them. Passive listening to music (for example, when travelling in the car) has its place, but there is nothing better for a toddler than being actively involved. Participating with parents, siblings or whānau in singing and dancing or exploring musical instruments is the best experience for tamariki.

Songs and rhymes with children can provide non-demanding communication, and help create a happy, relaxed atmosphere. Making up silly songs with repetitive rhythms or words can be fun and will enhance language development.

Toddlers tend to have favourite songs or rhymes and may request them over and over again, just like they have their favourite books. This is to be encouraged because, through this repetition, brain connections are being strengthened.

Children enjoy real instruments like maracas, drums, cymbals and bells, but homemade poi or rhythm sticks, or even pots and pans and a couple of wooden spoons, will give them pleasure too. It will provide opportunities to discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive.

Most communities have music and movement groups, which are a great way to get toddlers involved, especially if their parents struggle with creating musical fun and games at home.

Other resources

Play idea: Music — Waiata | Ministry of Education(external link)