Music Therapy for Development Skills

By: Dr. Amy Robertson, Director of Music Therapy at UMKC


  • When I’m awake AND before my feeding
  • My attention span is short, so change activities every 2-3 minutes. Repeat activities a few times in a row, and across several days to expand learning


  • Singing of lullabies or children’s songs
  • Higher-pitched and faster tempos will keep me interested longer


  • Crib, parent’s chest, cradled


  • Physical development

    • Use singing paired with movement of visually appealing objects (parent’s face, black/white/red toys) while in different positions (tummy time, sidelying, back, supported sitting) to encourage head turning/lifting and trunk support by following the face/object. Make sure to reward me with smiles and a burst of high energy singing/vocalization if I do what you asked for.
    • I love to stretch! Sing songs (e.g., Patti-Cake; Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, or make up your own!) while helping me learn to clap, bring my hands to my face, bringing hands/legs to the opposite side of my body, and stretching hands to my opposite knee.
    • Help me grasp small, noise making objects (shakers, bells, etc.). After I learn how to make the noise myself, put the object in front of me to encourage batting (you may have to help me behind my elbow to reach forward).
    • If I am getting sleepy, either put me in a tight swaddle, or cuddle me against your chest and use long, firm strokes down my arms, back, and legs.

  • Language Development

    • I will start to vocalize and learn how to talk sooner just by hearing you sing/talk! Please sing/talk to me as often as possible when I am awake. You can repeat songs several times, tell me about your schedule for the day, tell me stories about when you were a kid, or even talk to me as a running commentary (“I’m looking at my mommy, holding a red toy, kicking my leg) to help me develop associations between my actions and words.
    • I love books! Read to me while showing me the pictures.
    • Encourage language by mimicking my sounds. I learn best by cause/effect – If I coo, coo back to me as a reward. Make sure to allow time for me to sing/talk back to you by creating pauses in songs to see if I respond.

  • Schedule/Routine

    • Sing a consistent “wake-up” and “goodnight” song with me to help keep me on a schedule and transition easier.

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