Summarized from Introduction to Music Therapy Theory and Practice 3rd Edition Davis, Gfeller, & Thaut, 2008
SENSORIMOTOR STAGE (ages newborn-2): Aptly named, the infant gets to know their environment through their senses and motor activity. Hearing the mother’s voice, crawling, etc. Music offers a manifold for sensory stimulation and motor activity. Even though hearing isn’t fully developed at birth, young infants can discriminate one sound from another. Infants are particularly attracted to infant-directed speech (speech that is typically slower, higher pitched, and has greater inflection) and lullabies or songs that contain characteristics associated with infant-directed speech. At 2 days old infants can respond to fluctuations in a rhythmic beat. At 2 months old infants will fix attention on a singer or musical instrument. Musical bells or chimes can elicit smiles or wiggles from a 3 month old, they develop movement to music as soon as 6 months old as well as match vocalizations. Babbling between ages 12-18 months are important development in motor control of lips, teeth and tongue. At 19 months melodic and rhythmic vocalizations can occur. Music is an ideal medium for learning sensorimotor activities during this age as well as disabled persons who function at a mental age equivalent.
PREOPERATIONAL STAGE (ages 2-7): This stage the child no longer needs the physical representations to identify, name, or understand objects or words. In addition to language growth they also increase in social awareness. The first few years they are egocentric (unaware of other’s points of view or needs). Parallel play is when children can play next to each other but cooperation or interaction is rare. Musical games can create opportunities to develop social skills to follow directions, take turns, cooperate with others, and engage in social amenities. This usually is best-demonstrated ages 4-6. Ages 2-4 toddlers may show brief moments of beat synchrony (being able to maintain a steady beat) and this also requires greater physical maturation. Ages 3-4, walking and galloping and jumping can be incorporated into musical games as well. Spatial concepts and basic hand-eye coordination are also increasing through this time. Music activities that require language, social cooperation, and physical activity promote practice and mastery of the skills that characterize this stage of development in therapeutic and everyday settings. Because music is fun it can bring enjoyment and normalcy into the child’s life.
CONCRETE OPERATIONS (ages 7-11): Children begin to think systematically and can solve concrete problems mentally. Thinking logically helps the musical child by being able to notate music, remember songs, sing in rounds or other parts, and acquire concepts of rhythm, melody, and harmony. Being a part of a music or dance group helps develop community skills and loose that egocentric aptness. Fine motor coordination is refined. Musical activities also provide opportunity for personal achievement, focus, and mastery of musical skills.
FORMAL OPERATIONS (age 11-adulthood): The ability to think abstractly distinguishes this stage from the others. Formal thinking is refine through a multitude of learning experiences throughout adulthood.
"DEVELOPMENT is a process through which physical (including neurological) maturation interacts with environmental conditions; an environment rich with age-appropriate forms of stimulation promotes physical development. Like regular development, musical response and involvement require a host of mental, motor, and social skills."
Jean Piaget outlined four primary stages of normal child development:
1) sensorimotor 3) concrete operations
2) preoperational 4) formal operations