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How to Incorporate Music on the Playground


Girl playing with playground chimes

Music is everywhere in our lives. Whether you are listening to music at home or watching TV commercials with catchy jingles, music is a powerful tool in many aspects of life. In early childhood, music can be incredibly impactful on the growth and development of children. Many playgrounds incorporate outdoor musical instruments to help children explore music on their terms and cultivate an environment for growth and social interaction.

Why Music Matters

Music can be a powerful tool in childhood brain and body development at all stages of childhood. Whether children are still learning to talk and communicate their needs or are trying to make friends with other children and strengthen their developed skills, music can be the key to helping them continue to grow across a variety of skills.

Music and the Brain

Music and child development go hand in hand as music engages multiple parts of the brain, allowing it to help childrens’ minds grow while they are still forming, including:

  • Cerebellum: The cerebellum controls movement and physical memories, like muscle memory. However, in children, their cerebellum is still forming, but music can help them develop balance and coordination. Whether through dance or making music, music can help their minds and bodies work together to achieve a common goal.
  • Amygdala: The amygdala processes and triggers emotions by releasing various hormones throughout the body. Music can trigger the release of specific hormones and create more emotional depth in children. Further, music can help children better communicate and understand their emotions.
  • Hippocampus: The hippocampus stores and creates memories. It serves as the central processing unit for the brain. In general, music is a powerful tool in creating and retrieving memories, especially since the amygdala connects music and emotions. Children can improve their memory by interacting with music and making memories linked to music.
  • Corpus callosum: The corpus callosum helps the body and mind work together to create complex movements and thoughts. By using both the left and right sides of the brain, children can better control their bodies and connect their intents to the results of their actions.
  • Broca’s area: Broca’s area controls speech production. Because music can help introduce children to new words and sounds, they can increase their language and communication skills by listening and making music.
  • Wernicke’s area: Like Broca’s area, Wernicke’s area also deals with speech, though this section of the brain specializes in verbal comprehension. While Broca’s area will help children grow in their verbal communication skills, music interacts with Wernicke’s area to create strong listeners that can better understand language.
  • Temporal lobe: The temporal lobe is responsible for processing sounds, and it is influential for childhood development because it incorporates both sides of the brain. The right side processes and interprets musical sounds, while language and the meanings of words engage the left brain. Children can use music to learn new words and discern sounds from one another.

Music can incorporate several parts of the brain on the right and left sides. As children develop, it is important to stimulate different parts of their brains to encourage healthy growth and development. Music can have even more benefits when paired with movement and dancing, including improved balance, motor skills and self-expression.

Making vs. Listening to Music

Listening to music already has countless benefits, especially for younger children. Music can help young kids learn new words. Additionally, introducing children to music at a young age and encouraging their interaction with songs through singing and dancing can improve communication and motor skills. Listening to music often encourages movement, helping children gain better control of their bodies as their minds and bodies work together to create intentional actions.

little girl listening to music

Making music, however, is a much more complex activity that requires more skills, making it ideal for children who are still fine-tuning their abilities. When making music, children will need to use their language skills to develop sensible and understandable lyrics. Coming up with something unique or personal can spark their creativity and imagination. Especially for children who are still developing communication skills, music can be a great tool to help them express themselves and understand their emotions.

Because music requires a rhythm and melody, making music can encourage them to grow in their math abilities. They need to keep time to determine a steady rhythm and ensure they follow it. If they choose to include instruments or tools to help them while making music, this can help strengthen their fine motor skills as they grip and use objects.

Unstructured vs. Structured Play

When it comes to playtime for young children, you can opt to include structured or unstructured play. Structured play involves directions or instructions to guide them through situations and teach them valuable skills. It can consist of activities like games or classes where children and parents can interact while following guidance from an instructor.

On the other hand, unstructured play is where the child has control over their playtime to do what they wish. There is a lot of flexibility when it comes to unstructured play — children can choose to play with parents, other children or by themselves and can choose from various settings, as long as the choice is up to them. Examples of unstructured play include playing pretend or enjoying a playground.

little girls playing with instruments

Both structured and unstructured play have benefits for children, and both are essential for a child’s growth and development. Structured growth is great for cultivating essential skills children will need in life, like problem-solving and active listening. Children can seek out adults or other children for help setting goals and determining the necessary actions to reach those goals. Further, structured play is vital for teaching children social rules, like setting and respecting boundaries.

Likewise, unstructured play can help boost the confidence and creativity of children. With unstructured play, children can safely explore their surroundings and process their thoughts and emotions in a familiar, comfortable environment. Many children choose to play pretend, dress up or interact with imaginary friends. When playing with other children, they can put social skills into practice and learn how to best interact with other children.

While both types of play are equally important, adults need to help children balance structured and unstructured playtime. Playgrounds are an excellent environment for both types of play. Adults can set up structured games for children or let children play together or individually. With music, adults can teach children to use instruments and sing songs, and children can practice those skills and create music on their own.

Tips for Incorporating Music on the Playground

Making music gives children the ability to explore their creativity and develop skills they are learning, like math, balance and social interaction. Giving music a space on the playground allows children to test the limits of their curiosity and imagination by working with other children or by themselves to create music in a safe and familiar environment.

When introducing your children to music on the playground, you can help ensure they get the most from their experience. You can structure your time at the playground by teaching them songs or rhythms with the equipment, or you can choose to let them decide how they want to interact with the equipment.

Explore Unique Sounds

If your playground offers various instruments, encourage your child to try out all the instruments presented. You can help develop a child’s listening abilities by introducing them to different sounds. Children will learn to associate sounds with the correct instruments and can return to those sounds when they want them again.

Working with different instruments also gives children the opportunity to play together and develop social skills. Children can show each other how to use the instruments and explain the different sounds. With multiple instruments, children have the space to work together, share and set boundaries, allowing them to practice social skills together.

little girl playing with concerto equipment

Adults can encourage children to use their creativity to create different sounds when using instruments. In the process, children can practice their motor skills as they navigate equipment and determine how they need to use it to make music. They will have fun making sounds, practicing problem-solving and developing motor skills.

Discover Harmonies

Along with exploring new sounds, children can learn another aspect of music when playing with musical playground equipment — creating harmonies. Adults can lead children through the creation of harmonies, showing them combinations that work well together. Then children can re-create those sounds later. Children can also develop harmonies independently, using trial and error to figure out what sounds good together.

Children can work together to come up with harmonies using teamwork and social skills. They can have fun and explore sounds by trying different combinations to discover something that sounds good. Children can use their creativity to develop new songs or spark their imagination to play pretend and create fun scenarios where they are rockstars.

If children want to make harmonies alone, they can test their dexterity, fine motor skills and coordination by trying to achieve different sounds simultaneously. However, if they can’t do this, they can practice problem-solving by asking other kids or an adult to help them, perhaps even becoming a leader in the process.

Create Rhythms

Making music can help children apply what they are learning in the classroom. Adults can assist children by pairing it with counting to teach them rhythms and give them applications for math outside the classroom. Children can then create new rhythms on their own or try to recreate what they have already learned to develop their counting skills further.

kids playing with instruments in classroom

Children can use equipment to match and grow their skillset. Younger children can test out simpler rhythms or copy what other children or adults can do. Older children can create more complex rhythms that require counting or greater focus. Some rhythms or patterns might need children to move around different instruments, testing their motor skills.

When creating new rhythms with other children, kids may need to communicate and make music with the desired effect. If a child has a specific beat in mind, they will need to know how to articulate how to do that to other children. They can learn patience as they interact with other children and wait to learn rhythms together.

Creating rhythms can help develop short-term and long-term memory in children. You might ask children to copy your actions in structured play, creating a memory game. Children can also try to re-create songs they made or observed from other trips to the playground or that they heard elsewhere, allowing them to exercise their long-term memory recall.

Encourage Movement

Dancing often accompanies music. Dancing can be a great form of self-expression and exercise for children, letting them react to how the music makes them feel. Further, moving can help them develop their motor skills by learning to move different parts of their bodies.

little girl dancing

Many common childrens’ songs come with dance movements, like “My Little Teapot,” making them ideal activities for structured play with music. You can also incorporate pop culture songs with simple actions that are easy for kids to follow, including “The Macarena” or “The YMCA.” Children will learn to associate specific movements with those dances, helping them improve their memory and coordinating skills.

Movement on playgrounds can help establish boundaries and teach children to respect other kids’ boundaries. Children can establish and learn their comfort zones and personal space bubbles as they move and interact with other children. As children use and move about the equipment, other kids will have to wait their turn or share the space. To articulate their boundaries, children need to practice communication and active listening skills.

The Benefits of Music for Children

Music is highly beneficial for children, whether they are just learning to speak or have already entered school. Children can gain various skills from learning and interaction with musical instruments. The playground, too, creates a unique environment that is ideal for children to explore and learn about music.

concerto drums

Skills Children Gain From Music

Children seek to gain many benefits from exposure to music when they are young. Whether they are just listening or interacting with the songs, they can experience the benefits, including:

  • Stimulates brain development: Because music incorporates so many parts of the brain, listening or creating music can help brains develop, especially in younger children. Music affects both sides of the brain and improves many different functions, like differentiating sounds or recalling memories.
  • Improves math and language skills: Songs introduce children to new words, but they can also teach children grammar rules and how to form sentences. Children learn languages by observing them, and songs can help expand their understandings. Creating music also requires children to count to keep their place or know how many times to act. They can practice their math skills and receive real-world applications outside the classroom.
  • Develops memory, concentration and attention: Children need to use various skills to listen or create music. For listening, they need to use active listening and concentration to enjoy the music. For coming up with their own music, they need to concentrate on tasks and pay attention to their actions. They can use memory to recall things adults taught them or recreate songs they made up earlier.

children dancing and playing with instruments

  • Encourages better coordination and dexterity: Playing musical instruments will require different movements children might not have a lot of practice doing. As they continue to play, they can try out new moves and improve their accuracy and strength. Playing instruments can help improve their hand-eye coordination as they learn to control their movements and power to achieve specific desired results.
  • Improves social skills: Children can use music and social skills when listening or creating music. Especially since music and language work together, interacting with musical playgrounds can help children communicate verbally. Music can trigger the release of dopamine, which helps children trust and empathize with others.

Learning music and playing instruments can lead to several lifelong benefits in children, making it an excellent idea for parents to invest time in musical activities for their children. One study measured the performance of high school students across English, math and science classes. In their findings, only 13% of students participated in extra-curricular music courses. However, those students did significantly better than their peers. When children discover and grow passionate about music, they can set themselves up for success in high school.

Why Learn Music on the Playground?

Children can experience music in various places. They may hear music at home or in the car and have music classes in school. Parents or guardians might teach them dances or sign them up for classes. Children often make up their songs or sing nursery rhymes together. However, integrating music into the playground offers its benefits, including:

  • Accessible: Playground musical equipment is accessible to all people. Children who are typically developing as well as children with disabilities can play, make music and express themselves. Even adults can easily enjoy the equipment alongside their kids.
  • Universal: While music helps with language skills, music is a universal language of its own that can help people connect across language barriers. Children of different cultures or backgrounds can interact and bond with musical instruments. Adults can use music to teach children about other backgrounds by teaching them songs in other languages or from different cultures.
  • Expressive: Children are still learning to communicate and express their emotions. Playgrounds give them the space to have unstructured play, and music equipment gives them a method of expressing themselves. They can explore their creativity, imagination and emotional range with the outdoor instruments and play with other kids.
  • Social: Playgrounds are gathering places for people to come together to play. Children can play with other children from their school or neighborhood they might not interact with otherwise and make new friends, further encouraging their social growth. Because outdoor music playgrounds are accessible to many people, adults can connect with their children by making music with them.
  • Fun: Even though children learn music in school, they may have to follow specific rules or instructions in the classroom. They have more freedom to explore the fun parts of music they want to try on the playground. They can create their own rules, test different instruments and play as long as they wish. They can create a more positive experience with music on their terms.

Playgrounds are unique places within communities. With outdoor music instruments, you can add to the experience of the children who play there and foster a love for music.

boy playing with concerto outdoor music equipment

How Playworld Brings Music to the Playground

At Playworld, we dedicate ourselves to creating high-quality, long-lasting instruments for playgrounds with our Concerto collection. We highly value inclusivity and accessibility, so we design all our equipment with all children in mind to have fun at outdoor instrument playgrounds.

The Concerto collection allows children to interact with various instruments for the outdoors. We designed each instrument to rest at heights and angles accessible to all children, regardless of height or ability, including children with mobility aids.

The set includes many instruments to provide children with different stimulation and experiences. Children can explore each instrument’s sounds and play together on the larger ones. Our child instruments are colorful, so children can also visually interact with the instruments as well.

Contact Playworld Today to Build a Playground With Music

Mixing playing and music can place children on a powerful learning and growth track. Music impacts several areas of the brain and can stimulate development in children, helping them improve their language, memory and other necessary skills. Especially when paired with movement or dancing, children can increase their motor skills, like balance and coordination.

little boy playing with concerto drums

Playing outside on the playground lets children practice their social and communication skills, too. Whether they are playing a game with their siblings, friends or other kids they just met, they can learn how to better communicate with others. Playgrounds are perfect places to combine structured and unstructured play, where parents or teachers can lead games or let them explore and play independently.

At Playworld, we put care and pride into every piece of playground equipment we build. Contact us today to discover how our Concerto collection can add to your local playground and serve all the children who play there.