music, child development


This paper presents a creative research project that introduced musical instruments in an outdoor setting to infants and toddlers ages 0-to-3 years old. It was grounded in research suggesting that music plays a vital component in expanding development in the early childhood years, helping to promote learning across many domains. This project began with a survey distributed to 7 infant and toddler classroom educators, after which responses were analyzed for themes regarding perceived infant interests. Subsequent observations were conducted to evaluate the best fit for the implementation of an outdoor experiential music space. Based on the findings, a developmentally appropriate musical space was implemented on the infant and toddler playground of the University of Arkansas Jean Tyson Child Development Study Center. Key elements of the space included a design allowing for open exploration, comfortable seating for all ages, and promoting conversations and interactions. Finally, observations were conducted to evaluate the impact of this setting on infant and toddler interactions. Qualitative analysis suggested that the new outdoor music space promoted interactions and engagement, dramatic play episodes, and the expression of emotions, which are all critical to the development of self-esteem and social-emotional competence.