Receptive Vs Expressive learning in Music

By Stephanie Gross, Director Gymboree Play & Music St Albans

The first time you see your little one react to sound is mesmerising. Then the questions start: will they like rock music like daddy or pure 80’s like mummy? Where better to find out than a Gymboree Play & Music, music class!

People often ask “how do you teach music to a baby when they can’t even talk yet?” Well, here’s your answermusic is the foundation of cognitive learning in babies. Singing regularly helps build your little one’s vocabulary, listening and concentration skills long before they actually understand it’s relevance.

Receptive, meaning the ability to learn is compulsory for little ones to then become expressive; meaning the ability to communicate. If we think of our little ones as a sponge, they soak up all our love, attention and information and when they’re full it comes flowing out for you to see.

For example: Our little ones may place a maraca in their mouth to begin with, realise it doesn’t fit or taste too nice before starting to explore the instrument in other ways. What a lovely feeling it is when they finally become expressive by clapping for the first time, banging on a drum, making a high-pitched sound or even starting to dance!

Gymboree Play & Music’s receptive vs expressive concepts of music allow each child to Sing, Move, Listen, Play and Create freely throughout the class. These 5 key experiences outlined by M.E.N.C (Music Educator’s National Conference) are the hallmark of high quality, early childhood music programming. Gymboree Play & Music’s purpose is to nurture expressive musical skills by immersing little ones in the language of music.

Let’s all try singing row your boat together- will your little one anticipate the ending and let out a scream? What about Twinkle Twinkle – is your little one in admiration listening to your voice or trying to get their fingers moving like yours?

It may take time for your little ones to be expressive but it’s definitely worth the wait!


Did you know most nursery rhymes start on a C note? That’s no coincidence! Not only does it help your little one indirectly understand pitch, rhythm and beat- it also offers them the opportunity to learn language and mathematical skills too.

Did you know music is linked to memories and some children can recognise songs that were played to them while in the womb for up to the first year of their lives!