When Do Children Start to Sing?

Let your toddler strum a guitar to motivate him to sing along.
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So your friend's toddler is a mini Mariah Carey, and your own tot barely sings a note. Before your inner stage mother gets the better of you, remember that most kids don't sing on tune or with proper pronunciation, and that not all kids hit the same milestones at the same time. Encourage your little one to explore the world of music in any way that feels right to her, and let her know you'll delight in her every warble.

1 Speech Milestones

During the toddler and preschooler years, children start by saying just a few words and end up spouting full sentences and asking endless questions. What's even more amazing is that toddlers and preschoolers who have been exposed to music will also sing-speak or just flat out sing about what they are doing, or sing a familiar tune while they play. Some children are even able to sing longer phrases than they can speak. Most children start to sing around age 2 or 3.

2 Quality of Singing

You've been working hard on getting your toddler to say, "Have a nice day!" but it sounds like a jumbled mess of consonants and vowels. Similarly, toddler and preschooler singing might be difficult to understand, but as your child's speech improves, so will his singing. You also cannot expect your toddler or preschooler to sing in tune, even for familiar tunes. Songs like "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" start with a wide leap between notes that is difficult for a young child to replicate. Your child should, however, be able to discern when a pitch is lower or higher than the one that preceded it.

3 Introducing Music to Your Child

Since most children start singing in their toddler years, you might worry when your child isn't belting out tunes. The most sensitive time for developing hearing is in the first year of life. If you feel you missed this critical period, don't freak out. The first three years of life are also ideal for developing auditory and speech skills. Passive listening to music is great, especially while you're riding in the car, but it's not enough. Help your child actively experience music by incorporating movement or instrument-playing with music. Sing nursery rhymes to encourage speech development. Encourage creativity by making up your own songs. If you sing while preparing dinner and "narrate" through song what you’re doing, chances are you toddler or preschooler will want to mimic you. Singing a capella is a very "naked" kind of feeling, so populate your child's toy chest with mini guitars, ukuleles, xylophones or other instruments to encourage singing along while playing.

4 Considerations

According to Montessori World Educational Institute, while interest in music in the United States seems to be a part of human nature, many people do not feel comfortable singing. In other cultures where music is an important part of everyday life, children interact musically more often than in America. The good news is that you can catch up to these musical cultures. While everyone is born with the capacity to learn music, it is a skill that must be nurtured. So turn on the radio or chant with your chores -- when your toddler or preschooler sees your comfort with singing, he will enjoy doing it as well.

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.