Tip sheets: music and emotional regulation

Our evidence-based tip sheets for early childhood professionals break topics down into two parts: theory (Introducing It) and practice (Applying It). In partnership with MacPhail Center for Music, we created a set of tip sheets exploring music as a tool to help children build emotional regulation skills. Introducing It: The Benefits of Music Integration to Emotional Regulation Development in Young Children digs into the research that supports music integration in the classroom. Applying It: Engaging in Musical Play with Young Children gives practical suggestions for use with young children.

Deeper dive

For additional information and suggestions on integrating music into your classroom, check out these sample resources.

Make sure to check out our other tip sheets! Do you have feedback to share or an idea for a topic you’d like to see? Email us!


Below is a list of sources referenced in Introducing It: The Benefits of Music Integration to Emotional Regulation Development in Young Children.

  1. Rosanbalm, K. D., & Murray, D. W. (2017). Co-Regulation from Birth through Young Adulthood: A Practice Brief. OPRE Brief #2017-80. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Mehr, S.A., Singh, M., Knox, D., Ketter, D.M., Pickens-Jones, D., Atwood, S., Lucas, C., Jacoby, N., Egner, A.A., & Glowacki, L. (2019) Universality and diversity in human song. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aax0868
  3. Teie, D. (2016) A comparative analysis of the universal elements of music and the fetal environment. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1158. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01158
  4. Harrington, E.M., Trevino, S.D., Lopez, S., & Giuliani, N.R. (2020). Emotion regulation in early childhood: Implications for socioemotional and academic components of school readiness. Emotion. DOI: psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/emo0000667
  5. Brown, E., Blumenthal, M.A., & Allen, A.A. (2022). The sound of self-regulation: Music program relates to an advantage for children at risk. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 60, 126-136. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2022.01.002
  6. Brown, E.D., Garnett, M.L., Velasquez-Martin, B.M., & Mellor, T.J. (2017a). The art of Head Start: Intensive arts integration associated with advantage in school readiness for economically disadvantaged children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 45(2018), 204-14. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2017.12.002
  7. Brown, E. D. , Sax, K. (2013). Arts enrichment and emotion expression and regulation for young children at risk. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 28, 337-346. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2012.08.002
  8. Kraus, N., Hornickel, J., Strait, D.L., Slater, J., and Thompson, E. (2014). Engagement in community music classes sparks neuroplasticity and language development in children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1403. DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01403
  9. Porges, S.W., Bono, K.E., Ullery, M.A., Bazhenova, O., Castillo, A., Bal, E., & Scott, K. (2018). Listening to music improves language skills in children prenatally exposed to cocaine. Music and Medicine 10(3), 121-129. DOI: 10.47513/mmd.v10i3.636
  10. Halverson-Ramos, F., Breyfogle, S., Brinkman, T., Hannan, A., Hyatt, C., Horowitz, S., Martin, T., Masko, M., Newman, J., & Sehr, A. (2019). Music therapy in child and adolescent behavioral health. American Music Therapy Association, Inc.
  11. Winsler, A., Ducenne, L., & Koury, A. (2011). Singing one’s way to self-regulation: The role of early music and movement curricula and private speech. Early Education and Development, 22(2), 274-304. DOI: 10.1080/10409280903585739
  12. Brown, E. D., Garnett, M. L., Anderson, K. E., & Laurenceau, J. P. (2017b). Can the arts get under the skin? Arts and cortisol for economically disadvantaged children. Child Development, 88(4), 1368-1381. DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12652
  13. Torre, J.B. & Lieberman, M.D. (2018) Putting feelings into words: Affect labeling as implicit emotion regulation. Emotion Review, 10(2), 116-24. DOI: 10.1177/1754073917742706
  14. Porges, S. W. (2022). Polyvagal theory: a science of safety. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, 16(871227). DOI: 10.3389/frint.2022.871227
  15. Unyte (2023). The Safe and Sound Protocol.
  16. Zosh, J.M., Hopkins, E.J., Jensen, H., Liu, C., Neale, D., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Solis, S.L., & Whitebread, D. (2017). Learning through play: A review of the evidence [White paper]. The LEGO Foundation.
  17. Webb, A.R., Heller, H.T., Benson, C.B., and Lahav, A. (2015). Mother’s voice and heartbeat sounds elicit auditory plasticity in the human brain before full gestation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(10), 3152-7.  DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1414924112
  18. Wolf, D. (n.d.). Why making music matters: Singing, playing, moving, and sharing in the early years. Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.
  19. Tierney, A. & Kraus, N. (2013). Music training for the development of reading skills. In M.M. Merzenich, M. Nahum, & T.M. Van Vleet (Eds.), Progress in brain research (pp. 209-41). Elsevier. DOI: doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-63327-9.00008-4
  20. MacPhail Center for Music. (2023, March 20). Teaching BIG Feelings to Little People Using Music and Literacy.
  21. Register, D. & Humpal, M. (2007). Using musical transitions in early childhood classrooms: Three case examples. Music Therapy Perspectives, 25(1), 25-31. DOI: 10.1093/mtp/25.1.25
  22.  Breininger, A. (2023, May 3). Sing play learn: If you’re happy and you know it… [Video]. MacPhail Center for Music.

Below is a list of sources referenced in Applying It: Engaging in Musical Play with Young Children.

  1. MacPhail Center for Music. (2023, June 20). Sing, play, learn with MacPhail®: The finger family. https://www.macphail.org/sing-play-learn-with-macphail-the-finger-family/?filters=post_program__sing-play-learn 
  2. MacPhail Center for Music. (n.d.) Teaching BIG feelings to little people using music and literacy. https://www.macphail.org/teaching-big-feelings-to-little-people-using-music-and-literacy/?filters=post_program__sing-play-learn
  3. Cerniglia, E. G. (2013). Preschool Through Kindergarten: Musical Play in Early Childhood Classrooms: Taking It One Step Further. YC Young Children68(5), 68–73. http://www.jstor.org/stable/ycyoungchildren.68.5.68

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