Things like beat counting, key signatures, and note values draw upon math. But researchers are finding that music may help with reading too. In one study, children who had musical instructions twice a week for three years scored higher in reading skills than kids who didn't get music lessons.
Toddlers: Echo, Echo
Even kids too little to memorize lyrics can echo you during a call-and-response song. Using a standard like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," insert your child's name and favorite things, and have her repeat after you. This builds strong memory and listening skills, says Katherine Damkohler, executive director of Education Through Music, a nonprofit in New York City.
Preschoolers: Build a Band
Help kids invent instruments from stuff you have around the house. Put raw rice into plastic containers to make maracas. Fill some glass bottles with varying levels of water and strike gently to make a xylophone. It's a lesson in recycling and physics (different levels of water make new notes!). And trying to craft something to create music involves critical-thinking skills.
School-Age Kids: Time to Tune In
Play a song by one musician and another by a different one -- say, Dolly Parton and Duke Ellington.Then have him describe things that were the same about both as well as things that were unique to each. Supply the vocabulary for what he's noticing -- fast vs. slow tempo, high vs. low pitch, names of instruments. Being able to pick apart a sound can boost language and listening skills.
Originally published in the September 2010 issue of Parents magazine.