How music helps develop listening skills


Hearing vs Listening

“Hearing and listening are quite different. Hearing is a process involving nerves and muscles that reach adult efficiency by age four to five. Listening is a learned mental process that is concerned with hearing, attending, discriminating, understanding, and remembering. It can be improved with practice. Listening affects social interactions, one’s level of functioning, and perhaps one’s overall success in life.” (Weiss and Lilly-White, 1981) – Early Childhood Experiences in Language Arts: Emerging Literacy, by Jeanne M. Machado, p. 137.

Research shows that music training can be of immense benefit to language development. Music listening—such as paying attention to pitch variation and timbre—can increase a child’s ability to distinguish specific sounds within words. The awareness that comes from listening to rhythm in music can increase awareness of the rhythmic structure of language, thus helping children learn to read fluently. -“The Relationship Between Music and Beginning Readers,” by Susannah J. Lamb and Andrew H. Gregory, Educational Psychology, Vol. 12 Issue 1, 1993, p. 19.

Active Listening

Active listening differs from hearing in that it is an intentional act. While we are surrounded by sounds in our everyday life, we choose whether or not to listen and process the sounds we hear. Active Listening activities are an opportunity to learn to listen intentionally. Each Kindermusik Our Time class includes Active Listening. The children are told what they will hear, they listen to the sounds, imitate them vocally, and finally imitate the movement that might make the sounds. Through such activities, your child begins developing skills of attentive listening, comprehension, categorizing, recalling, recognizing, characterizing, describing, identifying, and evaluating. Activities like this are easily integrated into home routines too!

If your child doesn’t sit still and listen attentively during Active Listening experiences initially, he is still learning just by being in the presence of the activity. Over time, you should start to see your child start to actively listen in this sorts of activities.

Making Listening Meaningful

In order to make listening meaningful, we must listen with expectation and purpose. Organizing listening into the following three phases can help:

  • Engage. Focus your child’s listening by presenting a puzzle or challenge—making listening interesting.
  • Describe. Encourage your child to discuss what he hears, sees, thinks, and knows.
  • Demonstrate. Provide opportunities for your child to demonstrate what she hears.

 — Songworks II, by Peggy D. Bennett and Douglas R. Bartholomew, p. 43.

At Home

  • While going about your daily routines, ask your child, “What do you hear?” then imitate the sounds vocally.
  • Play games that promote active participation in listening. Listen to specific sounds e.g. the phone ringing, the washing machine, a truck reversing. Help your child identify them. Imitate them vocally and with props.
  • Read books to your child to practice listening skills. Involve your child by asking questions about the pictures. “What’s that dog doing? Where is he going?” 
  • Rock with your child while listening to your favorite selection of music. Although many people “listen” to music throughout the day, listening is often relegated to being a “background” event. Setting aside a special time for listening provides moments invaluable to the development of both emotional security and music appreciation.
  • Make listening to a lullaby a bedtime ritual. Kindermusik Home CDs have a wide variety of lullabies, or you might have a favourite lulluby you and your child like to sing or hum.

    Listen and laugh

    Is your child listening or just hearing?







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