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What Are the Potential Benefits of Using Music in a Pre-school?

Info: 13861 words (55 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Dec 2019

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Tagged: EducationMusicChildren

Chapter One – Introduction

Research Question

What are the potential benefits of using music in a pre-school?


This research project is exploring the potential benefits which music may have on pre-school children. It will look at what music is, the benefits of music in preschool settings, how all children are included through music and the different types of music and instruments being used in pre-schools. As noted by Aistear (2009) children listen and respond to different types of music and songs. Aistear also states that, through music, children “create literacy experiences” (35). According to the DCYA (Department of children and youth affairs) 2006-2010, all children’s identities are also highlighted through activities which include music, therefore, they will feel more confident and respected by their peers. This project goes on to examine such benefits of music education while also seeking to explore the many other potential advantages of the implementation of this subject area in pre-school.



The purpose of this research project is to examine music in the preschool and explore the potential range of benefits of its’ use within current practice in an educational setting as well as identifying further opportunities for learning. This research question aims to take a closer look at practice, and through the application of theory along with practitioner’s understanding, come to ascertain how music can enhance both the learning within and the experience of pre-school for children. The theory examined in chapter two explores some of the research in this area to date and hereby references many of the outcomes which have been noted, as well as the opportunities that can be explored through music.


The project will identify the various types of music used in the pre-school today, as well as the instruments and resources available for exploration with the children, including hand-made ‘instruments’ and noise producers. In doing so it aims to examine the effects of using music with pre-school aged children, including the possible benefits as well as the general impact of its’ application with these children.  In doing so, the range of activities and practices used in pre-schools will be identified, examined and explored such that conclusions may be drawn around the potential benefits of using this art form in a pre-school.

As stated by IIari & Gluschankof (2009), pre-school is a child’s first experience of formal social interaction, and this includes both relationships with teachers or practitioners as well as with their peers, who may come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. Given the vast range of diversity in Ireland today, music can prove a fitting and opportune avenue through which to explore intercultural relationships (Andango, 2009) as well as aiding in personal development for these children to whom Ireland is a second home. This proved to be seen throughout the data collection process, during which various practitioners discussed how music enhanced the learning and social adjustment of EAL children. The methodology for this project also seeks to explore both the opportunities for and effects of using music as a tool for intercultural development amongst groups of children. It does so by examining current practice and analysing its’ effect within designated pre-school settings.

Music has been proven to engage children on many levels, including, cognitive, emotional and, as previously mentioned, social; for example, Salmon (2010) states that, “Music mentally and emotionally engages children into thinking processes…”(938). In this way music creates multiple pathways and avenues, with the view to enabling children to increase their confidence around talk, dance, music itself, art and eventually into writing (ibid). In addition to this, music education and its’ use in a pre-school setting will help the child to develop an increasingly firm base in their knowledge and understanding of music and its’ many features. This will most likely greatly benefit them upon entry into primary school where music will be a part of the formal curriculum (NCCA, 1999.) So too will primary school engage children in an increasing number of areas of proficiency which music can also prove to enhance; as stated by Salmon (2010) “music is a language of learning” (937).

Music has been noted as being an effective means by which to both integrate learning (Wilson et al, 2010) and reveal important aspects of a child’s character and learning styles (llari & Gluschankof, 2009). For this reason, it is of notable benefit to provide opportunities for musical experience from as early an age as possible.  Furthermore, music education acts as an effective medium through which to identify individual learning needs. As the authors of this article, ‘Music in the early years: Research, theory and practice’, state, “Musical experiences in early childhood also reveal psychological aspects pertaining to children’s emotional, cognitive and social worlds” (ibid: 685). Therefore, using music as early on as possible can serve as an appropriate and beneficial way to provide for children of all needs. In addition to this, as mentioned above, music acts as an effective integration tool. Gillespie and Glider discuss how music is “used as a natural bridge to integrate other subjects” (2010: 800), for example, language and maths which will be discussed further on. As previously stated when a child enters primary school they come to encounter a new and varied range of subjects which may be integrated based on a single commonality or theme which can often be music related, for example, if exploring the theme of Springtime with children music related to baby animals and growth may be used to transition between subjects.

From the readings examined and research conducted as part of this research project, it can be ascertained that music has a wide range of benefits from an educational, emotional, social and cognitive perspective (Salmon, 2010; Gillespie & Glider, 2010; Alvarez, 1991). Based on theory in this area, as well as information gathered as part of this project, this piece of research aims to explore the range of effects music has on learners, from a variety of learning and cultural backgrounds, in the short, medium and long term. In doing so conclusions may be drawn in relation to how music education may be applied within pre-schools such that opportunities for progress and development through music, in the areas previously mentioned, may be exploited.

The project is laid out in the following way;

Chapter two: Review of literature

Chapter three: Methodology

Chapter four: Data analysis and findings

Chapter five: Conclusions and recommendations

Literature Review

This section of the research project seeks to convey the knowledge and understanding gained throughout the texts and journals examined herein. To begin with, we will consider the purposes of music; as an art form, in the pre-school and as an educational tool. Andango (2009) discusses music throughout an individual’s life time. He identifies the types of songs geared at children, adolescents, adults and the elderly. The author goes on to discuss how different types of musical experiences occur at relevant ages and in appropriate contexts and how these experiences are key in enabling a person to develop and grow both as an individual and musically (ibid). He specifically targets cultural musical experience and identifies the benefits of musical activities such as, song singing, dance, lullabies and singing games. The author argues that music, given its’ many benefits and purposes, ought to be included as a compulsory part of a child’s education.  Similarly, Ehrlin and Gustavsson discuss music in the pre-school as both a learning tool and a source of enjoyment (2015). They look at pre-school teacher’s levels of confidence in music and how these levels effect the children’s musical experiences. It was found that the more freedom and intuition the practitioners applied the more valuable the child’s experience of music (ibid). In addition to this Ehrlin and Gustavsson also identified that “music serves as tool for students learning” (2015: 33). Comparably, in their discussion of the use of music to scaffold children’s learning and behaviour Gillespie and Glider also outline some of the specific purposes of music education. For example, the use of music to communicate, socialise and make connections (2010). From these readings, along with a comprehensive look at the topic it can be concluded that music is an invaluable resource in both educational settings and the wider world.

Next to be discussed is the application of music education within the pre-school from a holistic perspective. Gillespie and Glider (2010) along with Ehrlin and Gustavsson (2015) seek to convey the enjoyment aspect of music with pre-school aged children;

“Pre-schoolers also enjoy listening to music”
(Gillespie & Glider, 2010: 800).

“Music also is seen as important in bringing a joyful music experience to the children”
(Ehrlin and Gustavsson, 2015: 37).

Enjoyment is a central part of children’s learning; thus, music proves an effective tool in enhancing this sense of enjoyment. Similarly, in his article Music Practices and Teachers needs for teaching music in public preschools of South Korea, Youngae Lee states that ‘enjoyment and recreation were the most important reasons for including music in the curriculum’ (2009: 361). Music in early childhood is seen to play a key role in ensuring a comprehensive learning experience for students and it is hereby imperative to include a clear and viable music curriculum from pre-school and up (Levinowitz, 1998). Holistic education may be described as involving all areas of development and embracing a whole child perspective in the context of their family, home and community. (NCCA, 1999: 12). It is stated in Alaverez (1991) that “the aim of kindergarten education is to promote the child’s harmonious all round development…” (11). Within the repertoire of teaching activities discussed, the application of musical games, singing and teacher prepared environment highlight the centrality of music education at this age. To this end the author discusses the materials and recommended emphases conducive to a holistic early childhood education (ibid). These resources, rooted in music, play a key role in a child’s experience of school at this age. Julie Durno (2006), author of Music and Singing, identifies and elaborates on how music can benefit children in each of the foundation stages of the curriculum;

  • Personal, social and emotional development,
  • Communication. Language and Literacy
  • Knowledge and understanding of the world
  • Physical Development

In a similar vein Levinowitz (2001) considers early childhood as a ‘golden age for music education’ (cited in Lee, 2009: 368) as he identifies this phase as a ‘critical period of development’ (ibid). The literature reviewed as part of this project hereby proves that music is a valuable mechanism to conducting and leading a holistic educational experience for the child.

Alvarez’ (1991) article discusses the consideration of music related pedagogy in the pre-school, for example, the use of songs, rhymes and movement and how careful application of such methods in “following the young child’s own interests and motivation” (Ibid: 11). Similarly, to this Andango (2009) examines how music plays an integral part in a person’s development throughout their life. A holistic education encompasses consideration of a person’s lifetime and the activities and experiences relevant to that person, thus, music may be seen as playing a central role in following a holistic curricular style. The author also states that “curricula activities in music as prescribed for Kenyan pre-schools are all about the child, his or her musicality and ultimately, his or her holistic growth” (Andango, 2009: 819). Lili M. Levinowitz talks about the importance of music in early childhood and within her discussion brings about key mention of Harvard psychologist Howard Gardener. Gardener is known for his theories, papers and general studies on the different types of intelligences: mathematical intelligence, linguistic intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, spatial intelligence and bodily kinaesthetic intelligence. He identifies the value of musical intelligence within these and in Levinowitz article it is highlighted that musical intelligence is of equal importance to the other forms. Thus, to ensure an all-round educational experience for children music must be identified as an important part of the educational landscape. The author also states that a comprehensive learning experience in early childhood requires music and that without sufficient “stimulation and exposure” a child will not have an adequate amount to experiment with and to learn through within his/her musical play. This reinforces the integral part music plays within a holistic educational structure. Kinaesthetic intelligence is developing rapidly in early childhood (ibid) and so the early years are “crucial for using the body to respond” (ibid: 6). Levinowitz’ article talks about using the body as “a musical instrument” (ibid: 6) in that the child begins to use their body as a response mechanism within various musical activities. Cooper and Cardany note how observation of both parents and children taking part in musical experiences such as singing, moving, playing instruments and experience of musical free play provides opportunities to ‘identify prominent musical characteristics of young children’ (2008: 10). Llari and Gluschankof’s article also discusses how children “move their bodies in more or less a synchronised way” (2009: 685) to various musical experiences. This piece provides some key information around the value of music from a variety of perspectives. For example, individual needs, learning opportunities and personal development, when viewed through this lens music may be identified as being a central tool in a child’s holistic development. it is stated that music in the early years is a form of “being with”, both oneself and others. The authors also discuss how music may be used to encourage, develop and consolidate routines and structures for children. Comparably Tiffany Field’s article (2009) examined how music enhances sleep in pre-school children. the study examined the effects of classical music on naptime and how it facilitated sleep in pre-school aged children. From the articles mentioned and inferences made we can see that music provides for a holistic experience for children in pre-school.

In addition to this, music has been described as a “natural bridge” to integration (Gillespie and glider, 2010: 800) in that many subjects may be explored using music. It is also an effective means through which to encourage and develop children’s social interactions with one another. The title of this article identifies how teachers use music to scaffold children, both in their learning and behaviourally. For example, “mathematical concepts can be explored with children through use of beat, meter, duration of sounds, rhythmic sounds and tempo” (ibid:800). The authors also discuss how music is used to accompany movement and to self-regulate, while also enhancing children’s learning socially. It is noted that routine activities, such as cleaning and transitions are also greatly aided by musical experiences. Durno also states that carefully planned music sessions or activities can provide a child with ‘opportunities to develop a number of competences, skills and concepts across severeal areas of learning’ (2006: 1). Angela Salmon (2010) speaks specifically about how music is used to promote children’s thinking and enhance their literacy development. Music is described as “a language of learning” (ibid: 937) which will lead children on to talking, reading, drawing and writing. So too does Cooper and Cardanay’s article identify how musical skills ‘aids in language acquisition (2008: 5). While, as previously mentioned, Durno concludes that ‘communication: language and literacy’, one of the six areas of the foundation stage curriculum is aided by music education (2006: 2).

The national association for the education of young children (NAEYA) in Washington have recommended the integration of music into the early childhood curriculum due to the close connection it bares to children’s lives (ibid: 938). The author also identifies that such experiences have the “potential to activate a child’s schemata” (ibid: 940) which can aid their comprehension of numerous concepts and experiences. Similarly, in Alvarez’ discussion of music in pre-school she identifies the centrality of following a child’s own interests and motivations (1991). Drawing on children’s personal experiences in this way makes for enhanced educational opportunities as the child makes connections through music. Salmon describes the link between thinking, music and language as a natural connection, thus any musical experience a child can have will encourage their thinking and enhance their language development. Julie Marrow, while examining children’s creative development, expresses the importance of ensuring music is spread across the educational landscape and not simply ‘confined to one classroom or area or to a particular session’ (2000: 5) and offers examples around how music may be used in the classroom, such as, cues for routines, role play and calming times (ibid). Thus, it is clear from the literature examined as part of this study that music plays a key role in integration within education as well as its’ application in terms of specific instruction in key areas such as those mentioned above.

Music is also known to have several additional benefits as discussed throughout the articles and journals examined. For example, as previously mentioned Field’s (1999) study outlines the effect music has on a child’s sleeping patterns. So too has music been recognised as “an intrinsic motivator” in that it can aid children in their development of connections with their worlds (Salmon, 2010: 941). Salmon also identifies the value of music in the enrichment of a child’s cultural experience; she discusses how children become excited upon hearing music from different cultures and how this assists their ability to create stories related to those cultures. She also states that “culture attributes meaning to music and sounds” (2010: 943) and that it has the potential to activate mental imagery (2010: 940). Similarly, Lee identifies how ‘music is used to promoting cultural heritage’ (2009: 361), while Durno discusses how enjoying music from different cultures encourages children to think and talk about their own backgrounds (2006: 2). Beaver, 2001 also stresses the importance of choosing music that is ‘culturally diverse’ (413).

It is recognised in Salmons article that music both “mentally and emotionally engages children into thinking processes” and discusses the range of benefits related to this (Salmon, 2010: 938). A number of articles have explored how music education and application can affect and remedy behavioural issues. Andango (2009) discusses religious songs and music which promotes good morals, in the opinion of the researcher’s religious music is the best music to promote good behaviour. In a similar way, Gillespie and Gilder’s article discussing the use of music in scaffolding other areas makes note of how behaviour may be impacted upon through the application of music (2010). Intervention programmes have also drawn upon the use of music education, for example Deli (2006) discusses research conducted by Derri et al (2001) that compared a music and movement programme with a free play activities programme. The study found that free play activities could not guarantee the development of “locomotor skills in pre-school aged children” (6). Rhythm is identified as being related to language, maths and fine motor skills (Grieshaber, 1987 cited in Deli, 2006), thus music can be seen to enhance these areas greatly. Similarly, music is understood to aid the development of gross motor skills and perceptual motor skills (Painter, 1996 cited in Deli, 2006), for example Beisman (1967) reported a greater improvement in the performance of fundamental motor skills when children took part in “a movement programme with rhythmic accomplishment” (cited in Deli, 2006: 7). Levinowitz’ (1998) article also identifies how the early childhood years are “crucial for using the body to respond as a musical instrument” (6). Saunders discussion of pre-school music education identifies the benefits for children’s listening abilities (1939), thus it is evident that music plays a key role in the enhancement of this skill also. Marrow’s article looks specifically at how music activities in the early years can promote children’s creative development (2000) while, similarly, Durno links music with creativity and thus sees both as key within the early years (2006: 1). Finally, Llari and Gluschankof’s article makes significant note of the hidden benefits of music in early childhood in relation to an individual’s underlying needs and abilities.

“Musical experiences in early childhood also reveal psychological aspects pertaining to children’s emotional, cognitive and social worlds” (2009: 685).

These are significant clues, the identification of which as early on as possible, can reveal important aspects of an individual’s character and needs. The opportunity to identify such integral aspects of an individual’s requirements and abilities through music highlights the range of additional benefits to the establishment and implementation of a sound music base from as early on as possible on a child’s educational journey.

It has been noted by various researchers that music provision in the early years is often restricted. Ehrlin and Gustavsson (2015) discuss how singing and playing music are in fact “restricted in teacher education programmes of today” (33). They go on to identify the drawbacks of such restriction in that “music serves as a tool for students learning” (ibid: 33). Furthermore, the lack of instruction and experience throughout teachers training programmes leads to a lack of confidence on the part of the practitioner. Music is seen as bringing joy to children and as previously mentioned greatly enhancing their learning, therefore a lack of confidence in music and skill in song singing is seen as a downfall and a lack within the system. Lee’s articles also suggest that the provision of opportunities for music educators in training to provide ‘thorough and integrated instruction in their teacher education programs’ would bear a range of benefits for the music education process. Andango (2009) outlines the provision made for music education in Kenya. It is noted that the national curricula guidelines state music and movement ought to be scheduled once a week (ibid: 810) and that children’s musical experiences “heavily depend on the kind of musical exposure teachers have had in their own educational journey” (ibid: 812) as well as the amount of interaction they have with music in their adult lives (ibid). In addition to training in this area the provision of resources is also considered, it has been found that a teacher’s ingenuity plays a significant part in determining the type of musical experience children will have. Considering practitioners lack of confidence in and understanding of the importance of music education musical contexts can remain insufficient. Andango’s article reveals that 92% of teachers surveyed thought music was primarily for enjoyment while only 12% identified its benefit for cultural development (2009: 813). One of the greatest challenges identified within provision for music education is seen to be time (ibid). Even within the primary school curriculum in Ireland only one hour a week is scheduled for music education (NCCA, 1999). In addition to the time and training restraints is the issue of children’s interest. Alvarez (1991) notes the importance of following a child’s own interests and motivations (11). Andango discusses children who have expressed disinterest in musical activities and it has been found that in teacher’s opinions they will eventually gain interest (2009: 815). Marsh and Young (2016) discuss how musical play is enjoyed by children when they themselves have had the opportunity to lead and control the content (cited in Llari, 2016: 30). Levinowitz discusses musical play and identifies the significance of sufficient stimulation and exposure such that a child will have enough to experiment with (1998: 5). It is hereby significant that young children have a direct interest in the content of the music lessons. “Research confirms the importance of musical preference in one’s musical learning experience” (Yim & Ebbeck, 2009: 103). It is hereby evident that provision for music within educational settings must be carefully considered and receive adequate attention to reap the many benefits associated with the use of music in the pre-school.


The mode of study chosen for this research project has been qualitative analysis. Qualitative research is understood to be a field of enquiry that “crosscuts disciplines, fields and subject matters” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000: 2). It differs from quantitate research in several ways, for example, individual’s points of view are captured, rich descriptions are secured and the constraints of everyday life ae examined (Beaker, 1996 cited in Denzin & Lincoln, 2000: 9). Qualitative research is said to be conducted for exploration purposes (Creswell, 2013: 47). Creswell states that this type of research is an opportunity to explore a problem or issue (ibid).Music in the pre-school is examined in this way to identify details such as feelings, thought processes and emotions (Corbin & Straus, 1998: 11), as well as practice and current trends. Qualitative research is “inherently multimethod in focus” (Flick, 1999: 229 cited in Denzin & Lincoln, 2000: 5) as well as encompassing a method of triangulation which can secure an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon in question (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000: 5). As stated in Creswell, 2009, Qualitative validity means that the researcher checks for the accuracy of the findings by employing certain procedures, while qualitative reliability indicates that the researcher’s approach is consistent across different researchers and different projects (Gibbs, 2007, cited in Creswell, 2009). Various methods are used for qualitative studies, such as case studies; personal experience; introspection; life story; interviews; artefacts; cultural texts and productions; observational, historical, interactional and visual texts (ibid: 3, 4). The main methodology utilized in this research project has been interviews. Interviews afford individuals the opportunity to “share their stories” so that the researcher may “hear their voices and minimize the power relationships” (Creswell, 2009: 48). Methodology has been described as “a way of thinking about and studying social reality” (Corbin & Strauss, 1998: 3), while methods are the “set of procedures and techniques for gathering and analysing data” (ibid).

The initial phase of this research project involved compiling the interview questions to be used to gather information surrounding the embedded questions. The following questions were formulated and applied as part of the interviews;

  • What is your understanding of music?
  • In what ways, do you think music aids a child’s development?
  • Can you recall any moments where you experienced music benefit a child?
  • How do you know when children are enjoying music?
  • Do you have any children that find music difficult or challenging?
  • Can you tell me about the types of music you use with pre-school children?
  • Do you like to use musical instruments?
  • Do you like to use commercial music?
  • Are there any children with special additional needs in the pre-school?
  • Have you any children from different cultural backgrounds?
  • How do you include all children in terms of inclusion through music activities?

The next phase of the process involved getting ethical approval around these questions along with all other aspects of the project. When this was received the organization of interviews could go ahead. Six pre-schools were chosen at random by way of the following method;

  1. The website Tusla.ie was accessed.
  2. The website generated a list of all the pre-schools in the county of Laois.
  3. A list of twenty facilities was compiled and six were chosen at random out of a hat.

The pre-schools chosen were contacted by way of an information letter sent out in the post. A consent form was included along with a stamped self-addressed envelope such that prospective participants could choose whether they wished to take part in the project. All forms were received back within two weeks which meant the interviews could now be arranged in terms of time and setting. Each pre-school was contacted via a telephone call to arrange the interviews.

The interviews were conducted over a two-week period, which had been allocated for the purpose of data collection. Each participant was greeted with a brief introduction to the researcher and thanked for their participation. It was reiterated that all information received would be confidential and that the anonymity of all those involved, including participants, children, support staff, parents and guardians was ensured. Lyn Richards (2009) discusses the concept of privacy in relation to qualitative research, she states that the researcher must consider, not just the individual reports, “but the varieties and patterns in all the discussions of privacy” (93), therefore, it is increasingly evident that all such factors must be considered. When participants were happy to go ahead all interviews were carried out at scheduled times. It is necessary to consider the importance of gathering data from varied sources, for example, participants were chosen from different settings and of varying viewpoints such that the validity of the date could be ensured. As noted by Denzin and Lincoln (2000), “the use of multiple methods, or triangulation, reflects an attempt to secure an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon in question” (5). In this way triangulation of research methods seeks to ensure validity of the data collected. There were no major difficulties to arise throughout the process of data collection, however, it proved challenging to secure an appropriate time for some participants due to their work commitments and plans changing. After each interview was carried out the interviewee was thanked for their input and feedback and the brief of the research project was reiterated to them. All in all the conducting of these interviews and information gathered therein proved to be both enlightening and meaningful.

The next phase in the methodological process of this project was the analysis of the data gathered. First and foremost, the interviews that had been conducted were transcribed onto typed documents. Richards (2009) compares qualitative and quantitative research methods as differing in terms of processing data; she notes that, “quantitative coding reduces data… (while) …. Qualitative coding is about data retention (93). Qualitative research has also been said to go about obtaining “intricate details about phenomena such as feelings, thought processes and emotions” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998: 11). Therefore, the interpretation of data is a process that must be approached with due time and consideration. John Creswell, in his publication on ‘Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design’ discusses and provides rationale and meaning for the concept of ‘coding’ and ‘themes’. He states that it is here during which the researcher builds “detailed descriptions, develops themes or dimensions and provides interpretation in light of their own views or views of perspectives in the literature review” (2013: 184). The themes identified and analysed for this research project were as follows;

  • Practitioner’s understanding of music
  • Contribution of music application to a child’s development
  • How music in the preschool enhances language learning capacity and potential
  • Current practice and details thereof
  • Response and Inclusion ~ an examination of detail provided around children’s response to music in the preschool and how it supports inclusive practice.

The development of these themes came about by looking for similarities in responses and seeking inferences based on such comparisons. Qualitative research proves a fitting avenue through which to explore issues about “persons, lives, lived experiences, behaviours, emotions and feelings as well as about organizational functioning, social movements, cultural phenomena and interactions between nations” (Strauss & Corbin, 1998: 10). Thus, a qualitative approach to examining the application of music in a preschool setting has proven an opportune avenue through which to explore data of such an interpretative and situational nature. The themes identified will be detailed and examined in more detail in the next chapter of this research project entitled “Data Analysis and Findings”.





Data Analysis and Findings


In qualitative research ‘coding’, may be understood as the “process of organising the material into chunks or segments of text before bringing meaning to information” (Rossman & Rallis, 1998: 171 cited in Creswell, 2009: 186). Coding, as a method of data analysis, has been discussed within chapter three, ‘Methodology’, of this project. The interviews conducted for this research project have been coded in accordance to commonalities found in participant responses. As outlined in the previous chapter the following five categories have been identified, and findings have been analysed through the following lenses;

  • Practitioner’s understanding of music.
  • How music education in the pre-school contributes to a child’s development.
  • The benefits of music for language learning – enhancement of language learning compacity and potential.
  • An examination of practice.
  • Response yielded and inclusion – an examination of detail provided around children’s response to music in the preschool and how it supports inclusive practice.

Appendix one contains a transcript from one of these interviews and the five categories mentioned above have been identified using colour codes. These findings have been analysed and are discussed below as per defining factors that highlight points of information and conclusions.

From the research conducted as part of this project information has been gathered around pre-school practitioners’ understanding, practice and experience of music education. The interviews carried out have provided some key information in relation to this area and its’ benefits in the pre-school. The questions applied as part of these interviews have been aimed toward gaining increased knowledge around current practice and benefits to be noted from music in pre-school. Amongst this information lies, initially, a picture of practitioners’ level of understanding of music as well as the ways by which music can aid a child’s development.  In addition to this, information has been gathered in relation to the ways by which language learning may be enhanced through music as well as detail around current practice. Furthermore, the interviews have detailed how music is provided for all children in a variety of ways and the types of responses gleaned from these methods.

Practitioner’s understanding of music

To begin with practitioner’s understanding of music is considered.  From the information gathered as part of this research project it may be suggested that, in general, practitioners’ understanding relates more to a practical perspective than a personal one. For example, the interviewee in interview one related their understanding of music as “instrumental sounds, different tones and harmonies” as well as “a way for children to express” themselves and their emotions. Similarly, the participant in interview two stated that they felt music was a way for “children to express themselves”. Participants three and four also related their understanding of music to their professional status, for example “…children learn…” (interview 4), “… form of enjoyment for children” (interview 3).  The final participant interviewed proved to communicate a more personalised response to the concept of music;

“I think music is a way of expressing yourself. It’s a whole language in itself and it’s a way people celebrate life and just have fun with it” (Interview 5)

This practitioner was the only one to relate her understanding of music to life in general, while the other four participants spoke about it from a professional angle. Thus, the majority of responses given herein in relation to practitioner’s understanding of music highlight a tendency to discuss such an understanding from a professional perspective. Therefore, it proves difficult to ascertain what personal level of understanding these practitioners have in relation to music and its many facets.

How music education in the pre-school contributes to a child’s development

The second factor considered is how music can enhance pre-schoolers development in several areas. Interviewee one claimed to believe that music “aids a child in all areas of development”, while the participant in interview four stated that they felt that “music is very helpful in multiple ways”. Amongst these forms of development include, social development, personal development, physical development and communication abilities. Participant one spoke of the importance of a child having the opportunity to sing songs with their peers, while interviewee two mentioned how music has been seen to improve children’s abilities to interact.  Dancing and self-expression were discussed by participant three as being aspects of a child’s development which can be enhanced through music education, while interviewee four stated that “music is very helpful in multiple ways to a child’s development” for example singing and moving around. This participant makes significant note of how music can aid a child in their physical development. She said that dancing helps to develop children’s gross motor skills. Similarly, participant two discussed the pincer palmer grasp and identified how music can help a child develop this fine motor skill. In addition to this she also noted how dancing and moving their feet, arms and bodies is very important for the development of gross motor skills. Participant five also believed music to be important for a child’s all round development as evident in their statement; “….music aids their overall development, their intellectual, language, emotional, social, motor skills…..”.

The benefits of music for language learning

All participants discussed how music can enhance children’s learning of language. Participant one identified how song singing “helps their language skills” while music-related work at home with parents can help the children “learn their words”. Participant two spoke of the benefits of music for the development of “early language skills” and proficiency in listening and spoke specifically of their experience of success with a Polish child. Interviewee three also discussed music as a tool for language development. They stated that children learn their words through music and different songs. Like participant two this practitioner also spoke of how music education was benefiting a young Polish boy learning English. The increasing enrollment of EAL children in Irish pre-schools and primary schools today highlights the need to develop as many strategies as possible to help bring on their language skills and assist in the process of enabling these children to adjust to life in a new language setting. It is clear from this research that music proves an effective and opportune avenue through which to enhance these skills and abilities in the many EAL children we now have under our care and education system. Interviewee four specifically mentioned how singing allows children to improve their speech and communication skills, while repetition of words and sounds helps increase their vocabulary. So too did participant four mention how use of music from a child’s own culture helps them develop confidence in interacting with their peers as they tell one another about their culture. This encourages children to communicate using a common language. Similarly, this participant also mentioned how giving the pre-schoolers a choice in the music used was important because children are more engaged when they are given a preference. Higher levels of engagement encourage greater participation in language learning as the children have more interest in the content of the music and the language it involves. Participant five noted and discussed how music is proving to help a Polish child in their class and specifically mentions how the child’s knowledge of animals and the sounds they make has been hugely improved. As we can see music in the pre-school proves a highly efficient means through which these students may learn language. However, as previously mentioned, its’ benefit is not confined to EAL students. The language skills of pre-school learners in the settings examined have been notably enhanced and assisted through the application of music education and exposure according the the practitioners interviewed.

An examination of practice

Participants’ discussions of practice in the pre-school in terms of music education also serves to reveal some key information in relation to the benefits of the subject at this level. One of the questions asked was geared toward examining children’s level of enjoyment of music. Interview participants were asked how they felt it was evident that a child was enjoying music. The first interviewee stated that “dancing, singing and laughing and playing with their friends” was a sign that children were enjoying the musical experience at hand. This physical response from the children signified happiness and recreation thus suggesting engagement with and benefit from the activity. Participant two said that they felt enjoyment was evident when the children sought for music to be played in the room as well as the volume increased. Seeking repetition of musical content shows that the children found this activity to be something joyful and meaningful. The third practitioner said that she felt the characteristics of knowing that a child is enjoying music were “dance, singing, smiling, laughing and messing with their friends”. Again, this physical response highlights fun and amusement on the part of the children, as well as indicating engagement with the lesson. Similar to the above, participant number four also felt that dancing, singing and moving their bodies to the rhythm of the music signified enjoyment on the part of the children. She also mentioned dancing and laughing with their friends as being a marker of enjoyment. Participant five also mentioned that seeing the children “moving their bodies and jumping around” highlights how much they are enjoying themselves.


The interviews also contained a selection of questions aimed at determining the content of music lessons in the pre-school, for example, the types of music played, the instruments used and the application of commercial music. Three out of five participants discussed the making of instruments for music lessons. One participant mentioned using cartons and bottles and small objects such as “stones” (interviewee one) while another stated that rice and bottles along with other materials were used to make instruments. Interviewee three also discussed the use of recycling materials, for example, plastic bottles, milk cartons and boxes to make instruments and how the materials were examined in terms of variation in sounds produced. The construction of handmade instruments in this way proves an effective way to engage the children in the music lesson from a different angle and thus enhances their level of enjoyment and interest in the content. It also provides an opportunity to integrate with other curricular areas such as Art and ‘Exploring and Thinking’ (NCCA, 2009: 13), for example, the understanding of sound producers. All interviews contained the question regarding types of music. Responses, for the most part, largely correlated with one another; nursery rhymes, movie songs and culturally diverse music were all mentioned. In addition to this commercial music was discussed and it was found that all practices made some use of commercial music sources such as the radio, cd player, video songs and even yoga music. Culturally diverse music has proven to be particularly popular amongst participant responses, many praising its benefit for both native students and EAL students.

It was clear from participant’s responses that their practice in terms of music education was carefully geared toward the cohort in question. Personality, preference, ability, needs and interest were all considered when deciding upon content. Such considerations clearly benefitted the students in question as we can see from anecdotes given by the participants. For example, in interview one the participant noted how music education helped a Polish child with their language. Similarly, in interview two the practitioner spoke of how music contributed to the development of talking, dancing and laughing for a child diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome. This participant also mentioned how music benefited children in her group who spoke English as an additional language; she said “we have a little boy from Poland who is learning English very well through music. We also have an African boy and he loves music also”.  The participant in the third interview also mentioned the benefits of music for children of different cultures; “we play music from their cultures to support their identity”. Interviewee four also discussed the advantages of music for a child who was on the Autism Spectrum saying, “it completely calms her down”. The practitioner in interview five referred to a child in her group who’s” social interaction was very poor” stating that when “the music came on the child was able to express herself and interact more with her peers in the class”.

Response yielded and inclusive practice.

The final theme identified as part of the findings in this research project pertains to the types and nature of response yielded from practice in music education as well as identification of how music in the pre-school enhances inclusive practice. The consensus suggested that a positive and advantageous response was generated from the provision of music education. As previously mentioned cultural diversity gained in a significant way from music education, for example, the use of Indian, Chinese, Polish and African music. Inclusion of the music of these countries contributed to developing the EAL children’s sense of identity and belonging within the group. This also proved to enhance social interaction between all children, for example, in interview three the practitioner discussed how the “African boy” loved to bring in some of his own CDs and instruments from his culture to show the class and how this gave him more of a sense of belonging. This links directly with the theme of ‘Identity and Belonging’ outlined in Aistear (2009: 13). Once again the extent to which children danced, played and laughed together when the music came on signifies how beneficial music is when it comes to social development and relationships. Participant two specifically notes how; “They interact very with the other children through music”.  Music also proves an effective means through which to enhance behaviour management techniques as mentioned in the review of literature in chapter two. This advantage of of Music education has also been evident throughout the interviews. In addition to the advantages of music in developing children’s abilites to behave appropriately with one another so too is music noted as enhancing individual behaviour management techniques. Participant one states that the children’s behaviour “improves so much” after the music lesson or session has taken place. Participant four also discussed the calming effects music has proven to have on the child in her group who presents with austic spectrum disorder. She says that this young child “thoroughly enjoys this session” and that it also “completely calms her down”. Further on in the interview she notes that certain music proves to be this child’s favourite and thus contributes to the management of her needs. Participant five mentions the benefits of music for the child in their class who presents with ADHD, noting how it “allows him to release all his energy and afterwards he calms down and concentrates and sits down”. As previously noted the children’s own preferences in general play a significant part in the benefit they will gain from musical experiences they have. Participant four states; “We always ask the children for their likes and dislikes. We give them all choice of activities and the songs”. When the children are given a preference, they respond in more personal ways. It is also important to allow children to make appropriate levels of noise within the room as this also enhances their abilities to express themselves. The use of instruments, both handmade and commercial, as well as using songs of the children’s own preference and choice enhances the children’s ability to develop appropriate ways to express themselves. When speaking about the use and application of musical instruments participant one states; “they love making noise”. Once again this mode of self expression for children of this age is of great importance and thus providing them with opportunities to engage it ought to be varied and integrated.

As ‘integration’ has been another area explored and examined throughtout this research project, it is worthwhile discussing how the interviews carried out contributed to an understanding of and insight into how music education in the pre-school can enhance integrated practise across curricular areas and topics. As noted, one of the themes, identified as part of the ‘findings’ of this research project, pertains to the area of language learning, which highlights that music is an opportune medium through which to develop capacities and development this area. Integrating music with language learning in this way hereby contributes to the establishment and enhancement of one of the key areas of pre-school education. Many other integration opportunities have been noted and discussed throughout this project such as the use of music education in the development of mathematical skills and abilities as highlighted in the literature review. Most of the participants interviewed discussed the use of nursery rhymes as part of their repetoire of music education materials. As we know many nursery rhymes encompass the enhancement of counting and number skills for children and, thus, it is inevitable that the use of music in the pre-school settings examined within this project will have provided, and will continue to provide great opportunities for mathematical skill development. The preschool period is also one of the most important phases in a child’s life in terms of motor skill development, both fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Some of the participants discussed just how much the children loved to dance when the music came on and such repetitive and rhythmic movement plays a significant role in the enhancement of their “gross motor skills” (Interviewee one and four). Participant two notes that the children are often observed to be “moving their feet, moving their arms and bodies” and discusses how these are all greatly important loco-motor movements for children of this age. As stated above, in addition to the benefit of music education for the development of gross motor skills, so too is music education proven to enhance the evolvement of their fine motor skills. Participant two mentions the “pincer palmer grip” and states that she has found music helpful in the development of such skills. The discussion of constructing musical instruments with the children also alludes to the idea of using fine motor movements to carry out the tasks involved in putting together these instruments and noise producers. We can hereby note that another area proven to be integrated easily and opportunistically with music education is art and construction. Participants discuss the use of rice and small pebbles, along with empty bottles, cartons and boxes to make these instruments. The construction of objects using such fine detail and precision will not only enhance their understanding and development in art education and skills but will also, once again, contribute to the enhancement of their fine motor skills. As we know children of this age are constantly forming associations in their heads and making links between their immediate environment and mental constructs. In their discussions of the types of music used, participants mentioned sources such as; Tractor Tom, Frozen, movie songs, Disney songs and pop music. The provision and application of such familiar musical sources will enable the children to form immediate links between the content of the lessons or sessions and their own understandings of the world and familiar contexts. This highlights to us that music proves an effective avenue through which to integrate immediate lesson content with significant developmental processes. As discussed throughout this project cross cultural integration and social skill development are also amongst the main advantages of using music in the pre-school. As well bringing children from different cultures together through the songs played and activities carried out so too is music an effective means through which to examine different cultures and educate children around difference. As stated by participant three, the little African boy in her group enjoys sharing his culture and identity with the rest of the class; she mentions that he would often bring in cds and instruments from his culture to convey his identity and belonging. It is hereby evident that music proves a highly efficient medium through which to integrate areas together within the preschool from many perspectives, including, developmental processes, cultural exchange, curricular areas and social skill enhancement.

It can hereby be concluded that the information gathered from the interviews carried out, for the purpose of this research project, have provided some key insights into the area of music education and practise in the preschool. The categories of information discussed signify that music education bears a great number advantages within the context of the preschool and thus its’ application, preservation and expansion is highly likely to continue to benefit pre-school learners in an abundance of ways.

Conclusions and Recommendations

This research project has proven greatly informative around the concept of using music in a pre-school setting with young children. Through an examination of relevant literature, along with the research methods conducted, insights have been gleaned into the current state of practice in this area, as well as the many benefits seen to be evident from including music as part of the pre-school curriculum. The information gathered and inferences made have enabled the researcher to draw a number of conclusions in this area as well as identifying scope for further development and possible recommendations in this area.

The data analysed within this research project has led to insights within the following categories of information; Practitioner’s understanding of music, how music education in the pre-school contributes to a child’s development, the benefits of music for language learning, an examination of practice, response yielded and inclusion. We have learned that, in general, the majority of practitioners relate their understanding of music to their profession of as educators, for example three of the five interviewees, mentioned children and the pre-school setting in their answers to the question regarding their understanding of music. This suggests that an increased level of music education for practitioners in training may be necessary in order to enhance their personal appreciation and perception of music. Child development has also stood out as a central area of significance in terms of music education in the pre-school. It has been, conclusively, identified that exposure to music at this age bears a range of advantages for children in terms of their all-round development, for example, their social, emotional, personal, motor and language development. Language development, in particular, is discussed as a marker of the benefits of music education. Pre-schoolers language can gain significantly from exposure to musical practice, for example, repetition, vocabulary development and vocal expression are enhanced from song singing and nursery rhymes. In addition to this music contributes to the improvement and maturation of EAL students’ language skills and repertoire. An examination of practice highlighted that the use of children’s favourite songs, movie songs and nursery rhymes were amongst the most popular sources of music utilised in the pre-school. In addition to this, however, commercial and culturally diverse music also proved to be popular within these settings and these such sources are found to be extremely advantageous from a cross cultural education point of view. Finally, the responses evident from the children, along with an examination of music as an area conducive to inclusive practice have been considered. For the most part children have been found to thoroughly enjoy musical experiences in the pre-school. They are seen to be happy and sociable while listening to and engaging with music. The interviews carried out have also pointed to the possible problematic areas in terms of pupil response, for instance, children with specific behavioural issues, as well as those with special additional needs, often appear to have varying responses to musical practice. There have been instances where children cover their ears and appear distressed when music is played and, as one participant noted, children sometimes must be taken out of the room. However, the practitioners interviewed also discussed how music benefits many of these children in a variety of ways, such as calming them down.  Music has also been found to be an effective integration tool, for example, mathematical concepts, artistic development and physical education can all be enhanced using music.


Based on the research conducted, information gathered and conclusions drawn the following recommendations are put forth;

  • Practitioners’ levels of understanding in relation to music could be greatly enhanced. Training programs containing more opportunities for personal growth and development around music would make for higher levels of confidence in pre-school practitioners. This would be likely to enhance their personal response to music and hereby make for a more enriching and authentic musical engagement with children.
  • The development of specific programs geared towards the enhancement of language skills in pre-school aged children would be highly likely to bring on their proficiency in this area as music, evidently, proves a greatly effective tool for language learning.
  • The scheduling of music at regular intervals would also be beneficial for the students in many ways. For example, a twenty-minute slot, in the morning perhaps, aimed at giving the children an opportunity to engage with one another through music would make for increased social development. In addition to this, perhaps a midday slot designed with mathematical education in mind would also benefit the children in terms of their number skills development. Such scheduling of regular music sessions would make for increased opportunities to exploit the many advantageous prospects of music in the pre-school.

Avenuesforfuturedevelopment ofthe research

The conclusions and insights brought about through this project have alluded to certain areas where further research potential lies;

  • The issue of pupil response could be further investigated, for example, the children who appeared to be somewhat distressed in response to the music being played would benefit from a greater variety of options to be available to them. This area could possibly be investigated through future research to identify possible options for these children and how they may be engaged in the activity in question in ways that prove appropriate and suitable to their specific needs, abilities and preferences.
  • The area of pre-school teacher training could be investigated with the view to ascertaining possible options to enhance the knowledge, understanding, ability and proficiency of pre-school practitioners. This would provide a number of avenues that could be exploited in training programs with the view to enhancing practitioners’ abilities which would make for a more comprehensive experience for the children with whom they work.

This study of music, and its many benefits, in the pre-school has proven enlightening and informative. It is clear from the research conducted, from both theoretical and practical angles, that music education and practice within the pre-school is of great benefit to children of this age in a variety of ways and that it is most likely to prove of huge advantage to them when they embark on their journeys in primary education.

Appendix Three: Research Question and Embedded Questions

Research Question:

What are the potential benefits of using music in a pre-school setting?

Embedded Questions

  • What is music?
  • What are the benefits of music in a pre-school setting?
  • How is music incorporated for inclusion in pre-school?
  • What are the different types of music and instruments evident in pre-schools?

Appendix Four: Transcript of an Interview from this research project


  • Practitioner’s understanding of music
  • Contribution of music application to a child’s development
  • How music in the preschool enhances language learning capacity and potential
  • Current practice and details thereof
  • Response and Inclusion ~ an examination of detail provided around children’s response to music in the preschool and how it supports inclusive practice.


Interview One

  1. What is your understanding of music?

Music is different instrumental sounds, different tones and harmonies where children an express themselves and their emotions.

Sample links to other interviews: personally, I think music is a way for children to express themselves. It helps with their communication skills, their fine and gross motor skills and overall I think music should be part of every curriculum.

  1. In what ways, do you think music aids a child’s development?

It helps their language skills, be able to sing songs with their peers, helps them express themselves is well, their physical skills through movement – dancing and musical chairs and musical statues.

Sample links to other interviews: it helped a Polish child with their language.

it’s great for their fine and gross motor skills. They interact very well with the other children through music.


  1. Can you recall any moments where you experienced music benefit a child?

A couple of children from different backgrounds in the room and they can learn the tone of the music which is helping them – their parents said at home, and hopefully it will help them learn the words.

Sample links to other interviews: we include all children when we do music, they all interact well together.

  1. How do you know when children are enjoying music?

When they are dancing, smiling and laughing and playing with their friends.


  1. Do you have any children that find music difficult or challenging?

No, most of them enjoy music and play different games when it’s on.

Sample links to other interviews: we have one child who finds the level of music difficult.


  1. Can you tell me about the types of music you use with pre-school children?

Nursery rhymes and all their different songs from movies.

Sample links to other interviews: Mainly we use nursery rhymes but we do also use classical and pop music.


  1. Do you like to use musical instruments?

Yes, they love making noise. We use drums and we make our own from cartons and bottles and put stones and stuff into them to make different noises.

Sample links to other interviews: Yes, we love instruments. We use drums, whistles, rattles, piano and harmonicas. 


  1. Do you like to use commercial music?

It’s generally on during the say in the background.

Sample links to other interviews: Yes, we use the CD player for music for our yoga sessions


  1. Is there any children with special additional needs in the pre-school?

Yes, and they all respond differently, some don’t like it and don’t want to take part and some love it and they sing and dance and their behaviour improves so much after it.

Sample links to other interviews: Yes, we have a little girl with Autism. ….. She finds classical music very calming.

  1.  Have you any children from different cultural backgrounds?                                 

Yes, we have.


  1. So how do you think they respond to music with their peers?

It helps them with their language and even their parents have said to me before that the songs we do they are learning different words.

Sample links to other interviews: We play music from their cultures to support their identity and belonging.


  1.  How do you include all children in terms of inclusion through music activities?

We try to encourage all the children to take part and play different games and stuff like that. They all generally enjoy it.

Sample links to other interviews: We always ask the children for their likes and dislikes. We give them all choice of activities and songs

Appendix five: Graph of Themes

Number of Times Theme was identified in each Interview



Theme identified Interview Number


One Two Three Four Five
Practitioner’s understanding of music.
How music education in the pre-school contributes to a child’s development.

The benefits of music for language Learning.

An examination of practice.

yielded and inclusion
















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