Babies are truly amazing things. As we busily measure, weigh and tick off their growth chart, their cognitive development is racing along at a lightning pace, rapidly forming new connections and pathways to interpret and understand, whenever they hear new sounds.
Unlike eyesight, babies have highly developed hearing from the day they are born. And even before they are born, babies begin to remember music and sounds from inside the womb. From 25 weeks they’ve been soothed by the rhythm of your heartbeat and enjoyed the lyrical tone of your voice, they even begin to recognise particular songs and language patterns.
As we are caught up in the early months of feeding, settling, explosive nappies and sleep deprivation, often the simple joy of music is forgotten. But there are many benefits from taking a moment to share a tune.
Music is beneficial for brain development. Even before babies can walk or talk, studies have shown that exposure to music-making, learning nursery rhymes and lullabies can increase a baby’s sensitivity to musical keys, as well as showing signs of earlier communication skills.
Music lifts spirits. Just as music can relax and take away our stress, babies are also emotionally affected by music, being more relaxed and soothed when they hear a good tune.
Music introduces rhythm. Tapping the beat teaches babies the basics of movement. Something that they will be very thankful of come the first school disco.
It’s a great way to bond. On a difficult day, nothing brightens the mood better than popping on your favourite song and having a dance around together.
Music fosters creativity. Stimulating the brain to think outside the ordinary, music keeps you in touch with your creative side.
It’s fun! Sharing and enjoying music is a passion that they will keep with them for the rest of their lives.
Music boosts language skills. The rhythm of lyrics exposes babies to the nuances of language. Studies have found that babies who actively engage in making music and singing are more likely to acquire language skills early, because setting words to music helps the brain learn words more quickly.
Share music together. This doesn’t have to be ‘Wheels on the Bus’ or classical music, nearly all music is baby-friendly. You’ll have a lot more fun if you play music you enjoy, and seeing you enjoying the music will show your baby the joy that music can bring, sparking them to begin building their own musical memories and tastes. Just pop on your favourite CD whilst you are driving the car or cooking dinner and sing along. Now you have the perfect excuse to dust off those ‘90s compilations!
Try toy instruments. Toy guitars, plastic electronic keyboards, baby xylophones, all introduce young children to the joys of instruments.
Sing lullabies. There is nothing more special for a baby than a cuddle with Mum or Dad and a lullaby or gentle singalong before bedtime. Don’t worry if you don’t know the words, or if you sing something completely different, it’s all about the time together, not about what you sing.
Create your own. Introduce rhythm and music by using everyday objects from around the house – wooden spoons and pan lids, bottles filled with varying levels of water, or a plastic bottle half-filled with dry pasta to create a shaker. If you are feeling super-crafty, you can make a guitar from rubber bands and an empty tissue box.
Try different genres. Expose them to different styles, flavours and rhythms. Whether it’s Katy Perry or the Rolling Stones, baby will enjoy sharing them with you.
Rocking to music. Even the littlest babies can enjoy music. Just singing, patting, or rocking together to music helps to strengthen musical pathways in their brain.
Use toys. Introduce rhythm and tempo by having soft toys dance along to the music. Set up a teddy bear band, or a barbie singalong.
Your voice. The most significant part of their early memories is your voice. Talking and singing strengthens the bond between mother and child. Don’t worry if you don’t have a great singing voice, they will always think it is perfect.