Children are experiencing rhythm from the first moment of their conception. They become familiar with their mother's heart beat of of her other internal organs. Scientific research reveals that babies can hear in the womb.

Parents who understand the power of rhythm and work to help their children to appreciate it are giving them a precious and valuable life-long gift. You do not need to be a musician, to be able to read music or sing like a professional to do this successfully with babies, toddlers or pre-schoolers.

You just need to interact with your offspring in a fun way. Actually much traditional play between parents and very young children has a strongly rhythmic element. We play these games because we know that they love, for example, to be bounced. A few British examples are the clapping rhyme "Pat a cake, Pat a cake, Bakers man..." Then there is "Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross..." where the infant is bounced up and down on an adult's knee. Whatever meaning these words had has long since been forgotten but they live on bcause kids love the accompanying actions.

Music of which rhythm is an element has a profound effect on all of us throughout our lives. Music transmits ethnic beliefs and values and these are often passed down the generations during celebrations in which music plays a part. It is a language and a means of communication. Rhythmic activities improve little ones hand-eye co-ordination. Blowing helps breath control breathing and fingers and mouth must work together. Further it improves the kid's sense of self-esteem, and confidence. They also experience a feeling of accomplishment. Our offspring love to see that their parents are not frightened of trying new things and making mistakes.

I am a Dance and Movement Therapist whose work was mainly with children who had profound learning and physical problems. I discovered that children with severe Downes Syndrome seemed to have great difficulty in keeping time. This may be because they were unable to perceive a pattern to the sound or because having anticipated the rhythmic pattern they were not able to physically respond in time. My first real break-through moment came when two children were dancing to a recording of Australian Aborigines playing the digirido. They were inspired. They created their own choreography, danced in time to the music and interacted with one another. The sounds had inspired them to create a beautiful dance which was recognized as such by all present.

Every session I incorporated a musical activity. There was always great excitement when I turned up with my full complement of instruments. The boys always headed straight for the drums. To my surprise I found that if everyone was assigned a group with each group playing a different instrument it was possible to do quite complicated rhythm work.

These activities were very good for simple math and co-ordination. Rhythmically the individuals could deal with number concepts which they would have been unable to do otherwise. They all seemed to concentrate more than usual while doing this activity.

In the early stages of music appreciation there is no right or wrong way to do things.

Although there are beautifully constructed minature instruments for babies,toddlers and pre-schoolers you do not need to make large finacial outlays at this stage. You are just trying to introduce as wide a variety of sounds and rhythms as possible. There are now many high quality musical toys on the market. Just be sure that they are made of durable, safe materials.

In fact with a little time and effort you can make a variety of instruments yourself at home. If your offspring helps make the instruments he or she is more likely to be more interested in using them.

Drums are very easy to construct. For example, cut the ends off a large can, attach rubber inner tubing to both ends or put a plastic snap-on lid on each end.

The drum can be played with hands, spoons, pencils or wooden rods.Wrapping fabric to one end will give the drumstick a different sound.

Tambourines can also be made in a number of cheap and easy ways. For example, take two aluminium pie pans and put bottletops, buttons, beans of other small objects in one. Place the other pan on top so that it encloses the contents. Make evenly spaced holes around the rim. Then lace the two together carefully. If you use paper plates the kids can paint or color them first.

Shakers can be produced using film containers, cans or boxes. To produce different sounds try putting a variety of items such as dry beans, macoroni, rice etc into them. Make sure that the container is securely held closed.

Dowel rods, bamboo fishing poles can be cut into suitable lengths, chopsticks, and spoons can all be used as rhythm sticks.

Dzagbe Cudjoe is a Dance and Movement Therapist, Intuitive Counselor, Healer and Ethnologist with a keen interest in promoting Dance as a means of achieving Mind-Body-and-Spirit integration... She is the author of the e-manual "Dance to Health -Help Your Special Needs Child Through Inspirational Dance".

Cymbals and bells can be made from the lids of jars and saucepan lids with handles. The last mentioned produce quite a realistic sound.

To make Kazoos and Horns stick waxed paper over one end of a cardboard tube. Tubes from paper towels or toilet tissue are a good choice. To play it hum into the open end with mouth slightly open. Making three holes in the tube changes the sound.

You can even construct a Banjo or Guitar. A shoe box is required. A large hole is cut into the middle of the shoe box and a piece removed out of one end of the lid and the box. A slit is made in a cardboard tube which is then fitted into place. Rubber bands with enough space between them for the fingers are stretched around the box. Different sized rubber bands are used to "tune" the guitar.

Now that you have purchased or made some instruments it's time to have a session. The first thing is to tell your little one what the name of the instrument is and encourage them explore itby feeling the different materials and textures. Explore the different sound which the instruments make. When there is familiarity with them let your son or daughter close his or her eyes and guess which one you are playing.

Infants and toddlers enjoy short songs sung in a high, soft voice. You can make up your own songs about any subject you like. Nusery rhymes recited with rhythm and repetition are enjoyed. Action songs usually go down well too. Games where the children are asked to jump, hop or make various movements with their bodies when the music stops are also usually a success. Show your little one how to clap, rattle, tap, or drum the rhythm of spoken phrases. You could read sentences from their favorite books or their favorite songs.

Infants can be encouraged to look for the rhyming words in a poem and to mark them by making a percussive sound. You can have conversations in which the participants beat, shake, clap or jingle an instrument to mark the time. Have your kid mimic what you are playing with an instrument of their choice. A variant of this is not to let your hands be seen while clapping whih trains the child to listen carefully to the sound.

When your offspring can identify the beat in recorded music you can play a variant of "Memory". Let the child play along to the music for a while and then stop the music and let the little person continue playing alone.There are a large number of excellent music dvd's and cd's on the market which are specifically produced for children.

It is easy for a parent to invite their son or daughter's friends around to form a drum circle. You are the facilitator who demonstrates, keeps order, gives instructions and much praise and encouragement. Let everything happen in a relaxed atmosphere.

Your offspring will not necessarily go on to be a world class musician. But you will have opened your child to the pleasures and therapeutic power of music. In this process imagination, creativity, self-confidence and many physical benefits will have been gained.

Author's Bio: 

Dzagbe Cudjoe is a Dance Movement Therapist and ethnologist with wide experience of Dance in Africa and Europe. As an ethnologist her main field of research was into West African traditional religion. As a Dance Movement Therapist her area of specialization is working with children who have challenging behaviour or severe physical and intellectual Special Needs. Dzagbe is now working on helping the parents of such children to appreciate the healing effects of dance. She is the author of the e-manual "Dance to Health - Help Your Special Needs Child Through Inspirational Dance."available at For more Information visit Dance to Health