Birth to 6 months:
Have you ever wondered why lullabies have worked since the beginning of time? Have you ever considered why all lullabies are soft, soothing, and typically high-pitched? That's because small children prefer soothing tones that are sung in high-pitches! Children who are only days old are able to discriminate pitches. Starting around three months they begin to "coo" to the music, which we all consider the first time they "sing." My son especially loved to do this when the organ played at church (talk about soothing tones). Between 3 and 6 months children begin to really respond to sound-making toys as well. It is at this time that they show excitement to familiar sounds and attend to spoken language. Keep talking because they are soaking up everything you are saying!
6 - 9 months:
At this stage, children will begin to attend to noises even when they can't see the source. Therefore, they will start to really listen to songs when played over the radio or CD player - not just the ones you are singing. They will begin to associate certain sounds with their sources as well. My son, heard ESPN highlights and immediately looked at the TV. He couldn't figure out why the TV was off. He then began to listen and localized to the sound - it was coming from the office. My husband was watching ESPN highlights on the computer! He learned a new source of TV-like sound... the computer!
9 months - 12 months:
Children will begin to move physically to rhythms, music, and singing. They don't necessarily move WITH the beat, but they are learning rhythm and beat. You can tap out the beat or bounce them to the beat to help them learn this skill - something they can learnChildren also begin to store songs in their long term memory.
12 months - 18 months:
Children at this age are now attempting to match their movements to the music they hear. They are able to rock, roll, and march to the music. Children at this age also have a wider vocal range and try to "sing" along with the music. Even if words are not being formed, syllables and single notes will be attempted. At this stage, they are able to attend to the rhymes and songs for short intervals (about 2-3 minutes). Again, rhyming is an important skill for language and reading (have you ever considered why Dr. Seuss rhymed so much?). Songs are a great way to introduce that skill.
18 months - 36 months:
Toddlers love to sing! They will try to make up their own songs - either with snippets from songs they know or by using familiar words (possibly what they are doing at the time). A friend recently posted on facebook a song her toddler made up - she combined three songs into one! It was quite hilarious. Kids are starting to try to match their pitches to familiar melodies. They may not get it spot-on, but that always makes for a more interesting creation.