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March 31, 2020 3 min read

The world is filled with music. It’s no surprise that children are drawn to it. It’s innate. It’s in our pitch as we speak, our footsteps as we walk and the rhythm of our sentences.

So how do we harness that wonderful musical essence and foster engaged and meaningful play? It’s through opened ended musical play and experiences!

Let’s keep it simple. Here are some milestones for the first three years of development broken down into three categories: babies, pre-toddler and toddler. A ‘Top Pick’ musical resources is provided for each category.  

Before I launch into these categories, I want to make two things very clear. Firstly, milestones are unique for each child. Trust your child and follow their lead. Provide them with the right tools and they’ll teach you! Secondly, there is a huge importance for quality resources in the early years. Children are developing their auditory responses and well tuned, quality sounding instruments will help ensure an effective auditory kinesthetic feedback loop is established.

So with that all said, let’s jump into the play! 


BABY 0 - 12 Months

Little fingers and wide eyes. They’re learning to grasp, studying images, keen to listen to their loved ones voices, tracking objects and following sounds.

Top Pick: Cage bells or rattles

These first instruments can grow with your baby. The small balls/bells inside provide a wonderful study for developing eyes. Strong fingers will soon learn to grasp and hold and strengthening muscles will begin to move and shake. Tummy times can roll and chase. The developing imagination can study imagery or pattens on the exterior. Songs can be sung and shared with loved ones while beat is explored. 


PRE-TODDLER 12 - 18 Months

The pre-toddler is on the go! They’re developing their gross motor skills and constantly observing and learning from their environment. They’re generally finding their feet and gaining confidence in their gross motor skills. They like to be involved in the tasks of their grown-ups, are in the early stages on imaginative play and love to mimic their familiar environment. 

Top Pick: Pull along rattles 

The busy pre-toddler can grow with their pull rattle, moving it faster as they develop their gross motor skills. Their inner scientist can experiment with cause and effect as they push it forward, pull it back and delight in the visual and sound parade. The expanding imagination can mimic everyday experiences such as vacuuming, mopping or mowing. Busy explorers can turn it into a horse and team is with some sound making; “neigh”. 

TODDLER TO PRESCHOOL 18 Months - 4 Years 

This is a time of great cognitive, emotional and social development. Toddlers are physical and love to move as they become more aware of themselves and their surroundings. They are further exercising creativity and developing their imagination. Allowing time for child-led play is important for healthy brain development and identity. 

Top Picks: (Yep, I’ve got two!)

A whistle or kazoo

The perfect open-ended imaginative toy. Excellent for early compositions. An instrument that connects children with their body and own instrument - their singing voice! An outlet for healthy sound making. An opportunity for call and response with others. An on the go instrument with multiple uses. A chance for silly nonsensical sound making! 

Pat Bells or Pound a Ball Tower

Musical toys that require physical activity. An outlet for movement and appropriate destructive play. An exploration of gravity, pitch and cause and effect. An opportunity to explore spatial awareness and develop gross motor, fine motor and hand-eye coordination.

So there you have it. It can be that simple. 

Before I leave you to it, I’d like to remind you that these are just a few examples of many wonderful instruments for your child. I can’t stress enough to follow their lead. Toys without meaning for a child can be considered pointless in the early years. They need ownership over their play. For example: Do you have a child who bangs on everything? They need a drum! Do you have a keen singer? Provide them with a glockenspiel or bells so they can match pitch and compose new melodies. 

Trust yourself and trust you child. They are designed to learn. Provide them with quality instruments and I assure you, they will do the rest. 


Happy music making! 

Written by Louise Lindsay, Founder of Gumnut Music. 

See all the musical choices by age by clicking below: