This is the second in our series of blogs discussing the different types of activities that you can do with your baby. This week we are talking about the benefits of music and the best ways to incorporate it into your baby's life and day-to-day routine.
We all love music. It can make us smile, sing, dance, relax, fall asleep, or even remind us of something or somebody special. There have been numerous studies on the effects of music on living things…everything from plants to animals have been shown to react positively to it.
One specific area of research has been to look into the positive effects of prenatal musical stimulation. Recent scientific studies have shown that there are a huge number of associated benefits of playing music during pregnancy for both the mother as well as the unborn baby. Music can help to create a wonderful bonding experience between mother and baby and has been shown to potentially reduce stress levels during pregnancy. it also enhances the stimulation of the unborn baby’s growing brain, and can help improve sleeping patterns. For an unborn infant, music prepares the ear and brain to listen, integrate and produce language sounds. These prenatal sounds form an important developmental component because they provide a foundation for later learning and behaviour.
Music has traditionally been used across many cultures as a way of communicating between parents and their young. Parents discover the power of music early on and it has been used for years as a way to calm a baby. When you sing a lullaby, your baby is soothed and may be more inclined to drop off to sleep. It can also help in other situations as your child grows. Making up a silly song may help encourage your child to do something they weren’t keen to do, such as brush their teeth. Music is also often used as a way of helping children to retain information such as when learning their timetables.
Providing music from a young age can help to provide with a richer, deeper, and more expansive array of sounds to enhance their cognitive potential and can also help to strengthen bonds between parents and children. Though it’s easy to forget this in the rush of everyday life. Luckily, there are countless ways to introduce music into the life of your child. We’ve listed some of the ways that you can integrate music into your baby’s life from the early days:
Many parents instinctively sing to their baby from the first days of a baby’s life and it is often seen as a very natural thing to do. However, it’s worth appreciating just how essential it really is. Even if you feel like you "can't sing" or you are "tone deaf" – it doesn't matter! Your baby does not care. Your baby loves your voice and feels connected to your way of singing, regardless of whether you are likely to win The Voice or not.
You can start by singing when you are pregnant. A foetus begins to process auditory signals at about 25 weeks and is one of the reasons why newborns prefer to hear the voice of their mother - it's the most familiar voice to them! Singing while pregnant has the added benefit of familiarising your baby with songs that you are likely to sing after they are born. It may be a good idea to try singing a certain song as you're winding down of an evening. Then, after your baby is born, use that same song to try and calm him or her to sleep.
You can play recorded music to your baby too, but it won't have nearly the same effect as singing will. It is a super-charged way of connecting to your baby and has the element of human interaction that babies crave and need for their cognitive, language, and emotional development.
Make songs out of everyday activities. There’s a reason why tidy up time songs are standard pre-school practice. Whether it’s a made up song about brushing your teeth, taking a bath, washing hair, having a nappy change, or getting in the car seat, it’s an easy way to weave music into your day and may even make your day a little easier too.. it's also great if you can never remember the words to songs!
Sometimes it good to sing (or hum) with just sounds rather than words. These simple sounds are often referred to as vocables by experts. Singing using just sounds gives your child the experience of pure tonality and pure rhythm without the distraction of words.
When you sing to your baby or play music, encourage them to move too. Carry and bounce your baby to the beat, move their arms up and down and let them really experience the music. As they start to get more language-ready, add words to the movement, instrument names to the sound and words to describe simple concepts like high/low, fast/slow, short/long to really familiarise them with the music.
Learning songs that uses hand gestures, such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is a great idea. Not only is it fun for kids and a great way to help then remember, but it’s also a good way to keep your child's hands and mind busy whilst doing everyday things such as travelling or waiting in a queue.
Remember that children learn by watching and imitating you. Play what you love! Share your favourite music with your child, inspire and show them how fun music can be. If you love the Adele, play Adele! Parents need to give themselves permission to model how much fun music is. When you show that you are happy, this often spreads to your baby. Music is a way of creating fantastic childhood memories that will last a lifetime.
Small rhythm instruments are great for building fine motor skills and nurturing a steady beat. Put small instruments like shakers and small drums in a basket that's easily reachable. Don’t worry if you haven’t managed to buy any instruments just yet. Household objects can work just as well. A wooden spoon and a pan can provide hours or entertainment!
There are a huge number of musical classes to choose from. The number and selection of options for very young children has increased significantly in recent years. Sensory and interactive classes such as Monkey Music, Caterpillar Music or Tin Pan Annie may be fun, or if classical is more your thing then Mini Mozart or Bach to Baby may be better suited. Research what is available in your area and take advantage of trial classes that are often free or discounted before signing up for a full course. Also try local libraries where they often host storytelling and singing classes,
Beyond the fun of taking a class together and meeting other mums and babies, it will give you new songs, activities and movement to bring home so that you can incorporate it into your everyday life.