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University of Connecticut University Libraries

Musical play is the child’s art form, the vehicle for creative expression, the primary avenue to learning and development, a source of joy and contentment.
—Frost and Sunderlin, When Children Play

All children are born with the capacity to respond to music and to be musically expressive. Children speak and sing rhythmically and use instruments to explore and playfully manage sound. This exhibit illustrates children enjoying musical experiences and presents selected resources that enhance their musical development.

Music, as a creative endeavor, is a complex cognitive act. It involves skills in attending, listening, focusing, integrating sensory-motor information, interpreting signs and symbols,. anticipating, remembering, forecasting, recalling, concentrating, and interacting with others. Making music, even for young children, requires constant decision making—training the brain to effortlessly organize and conduct numerous activities all at once. It engages children’s interest because it is pleasing and familiar, and thus, promotes effort and motivation to learn.

Age-appropriate activities play a key role in musical development. Children can acquire musical vocabularies that parallel their language development. The more children absorb at an early age, the more natural and extensive their musical behaviors later in life. By starting early and building on the child’s innate response to music and capacity to learn, adults can provide enjoyable, meaningful opportunities to instill a lifelong love of music and music making.

Linda Page Neelly, Associate Professor of Music at the University of Connecticut has served as consultant for this exhibit. Linda has been an early childhood music consultant for many national and regional cultural and educational organizations. As chief content advisor to the Sesame Street Music Works project, an early childhood music initiative, her work on interactive musical play for preschool children forms the basis for materials and experiences that make up that project and the Music Zone interactive Web site at

Music & Dramatic Arts Building Lobby • Curator: Tracey Rudnick