Music in early education and care settings for communication and language support

Pitt, J. and Welch, G. F. (2020) Music in early education and care settings for communication and language support. In: The Oxford Handbook of Early Childhood Music Learning and Development. Oxford University Press, Oxford. (In Press)


Musical activities are often an integral part of the home life of young children and their caregivers. Activities include songs and rhymes that coordinate the daily routine, as well as opportunities for learning and engagement in a wider world. Music groups for caregivers and young children are also included within programmes of activities for families in early education and care settings. Additionally, such settings may have specific targets and outcomes that seek to improve the life chances of young children in disadvantaged circumstances; one key target may be the development of young children’s communication skills. There is the suggestion, based on evidence from large-scale studies, that young children from disadvantaged backgrounds lag behind their more advantaged peers in language skills. Music can help children develop language and the associated skills necessary to be ready for school. In the early education and care setting context, it can be seen that music group sessions may serve various non-music targets and outcomes. This chapter overviews the evidence that appropriate musical activities are beneficial to learning and language development, challenging a view that words are the best starting point for communication. It seeks to offer a model of an effective musical pedagogical approach, developed through action research with an interdisciplinary team of early childhood music-arts practitioners and speech and language therapists for caregivers and young children in early care settings. The chapter aids reflection on children’s emerging communication through musical activities, as well as some practical ideas for working with children with communication difficulties. Finally, the main findings from two projects are presented as practical implications, seeking to contribute new knowledge about working with children and their caregivers through music in early education and care settings.

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