Music For Babies & Toddlers

 

Singing together, dancing together, playing an instrument, listening to music together all these can activities can help to encourage a love of music for a lifetime. You can read about some of the benefits here.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could communicate with babies – if we could know exactly what they wanted and when they wanted it?

And just imagine if a toddler could find an effortless way to express its needs. OK, there is no magic wand, no tried and tested method to cure the most demanding phenomena known to man – the behavioural patterns of a very young child. And yet, intriguingly, research suggests that parents can interact with their youngster through music.  By definition, music is an art of expression in sound. And its role in childhood development has only recently been fully understood.

Fifteen years ago, research by Gordon Shaw proposed that early music training may be useful in exercising the brain for certain higher cognitive functions (Concepts in Neuroscience).  A follow-up study in 1994 found that after eight months’ training in using a keyboard, preschoolers demonstrated a 46% boost in their spatial reasoning IQ. That such a boost did not occur in those without music training was a conclusion presented at the American Psychological Association in August 1994. This positive connection between music and increased brain activity in young children led to an acknowledgement that through use of music, a basic form of language could be created between parent and child.

If you have squirmed with some of the failed pop wannabes during the early knockout stages of the X Factor, you might reject the idea that everyone is musical.  But every child is. By creating their own music, listening to different sounds or simply singing along with mum, children develop important language skills.  Combined with actions, sign and movement, their physical co-ordination improves to a level where they learn to communicate with others.  This leads onto gained confidence and strong emotional and social development.

Children love to create their own sounds. Be it shaking a rattle, patting a drum, squeezing a hooter – they will often make a beeline for a toy that makes a noise. They will immediately be drawn into an environment full of energy, imagination and fun, and they will love this all the more if they can share this precious time with a parent or brother or sister – learning to take turns.  It’s a simple way for your baby or toddler to understand that by joining in with music they can become part of a team, strengthening the emotional bond among family members.

Introduce Music To Your Young Child

  • Sing together! Your child will love your singing voice even if you don’t. Whether you’re singing along to the radio, humming a nursery rhyme or making up your own tunes, introduce song to your usual daily life. Repeating the same songs will strengthen your child’s memory.
  • Join in with any music that your child initiates. Copy your baby as he coos to a tune, or sing part of a song with your toddler. Always praise your toddler’s attempts at creating music.
  • Encourage movement to music either by waving hands, marching, crawling or dancing, depending of the age of the child. Use of sign language with music will help a child communicate with an adult.
  • Introduce children to different musical instruments by visiting a local music shop.  You can buy simple instruments such as shakers or even make your own from filling small containers with uncooked rice.
  • Listen to various musical genres, from rock and roll to opera. As you listen with your young child, describe the different sounds from the instruments that you hear.  And take your toddler to a music event to see how members of an orchestra or band perform together.  Listen to tunes from other countries and cultures to build social awareness and make music part of every day life.
  • Recreate songs with puppets or toys to bring tunes to life. Adapt favourite nursery rhymes to initiate action in your child such as ‘Twinkle twinkle let’s tidy up, lets not be a mucky pup!’   Yes, it’s time to explore your own poetic skills.
  • Clap!  A toddler will keenly participate in a clapping exercise – be it clapping to a beat, rhythm or pattern. You can count the amount of time you clap your hands to develop maths skills and clap to a song’s lyrics to develop literacy skills.
  • Record your child humming, singing or playing an instrument and replay it back to them. Then just watch their face as they listen to their vocal talents.

Different Ages, Different Stages

Baby
Even a baby as young as three months’ old can respond to music. By six months it will start to copy tunes.  You can introduce music to babies by singing to them each day, by clapping their hands to different tunes and by copying the sounds that they make.  Mix in movement and fun as 
you listen to a variety of music together.

Toddler
A child aged between 18 months to three years should possess a basic grasp of music, recognising rhythms and following the differing beats to a tune.   By now, children have learnt a few words to simple songs and developed the basic co-ordination needed to play simple 
instruments. 

Pre-Schooler
Children aged between three and five are able to sing along to the words of basic songs and, as their language skills develop, they will learn new songs. At this age they are able to express themselves through music and will dance, jump and move in response to a sound.

Parent's Music Room 
The BBC hosts a great site for parents called 'Parents' Music Room'. Go to 
www.bbc.co.uk/music/parents/yourchild/not_musical.shtml