Many parents are aware of the significance music, singing and dancing in the lives of babies, children and adults. But how do babies experience music? What can we do to make this experience more meaningful to them at each stage? Read through and get some useful tips on the best way to incorporate music into your little one’s daily life.
In a Nutshell
- Music and singing is an excellent way of establishing communication with infants.
- Babies listen and learn through absorption and imitation of the songs and sounds they hear.
- As babies grow, they use music to communicate, participate and engage with parents and caregivers.
- Keeping to some general rules, such as mouthing the words clearly and repeating the same song over, will making the experience of singing more meaningful and significant.
- Music and songs can become an inseparable part of your baby’s routine, giving little ones a reassuring sense of what’s coming next.
Interacting with Your Growing Baby Through Music
- 0-2 Months: From the moment a baby is born until about two months of age, he or she are in the stage of absorption and imitation. Babies will search for the source of sound when they hear a song and, most of all, listen with wonder. Choose one short song and sing it slowly, opening your mouth wide and slightly exaggerating the gestures. Your baby’s gaze will move from your eyes to your mouth and back again. When your baby gets tired or stops responding, stop and wait to see if she just needed a short pause or a longer rest. A short pause often gives baby a chance to process and then focus again.
- 2-4 Months: At around 2-4 months, babies discover their own voice and begin to explore ways to use it in order to communicate. Continue singing the song your child is familiar with, adding more songs that incorporate finger or hand games or movement of baby’s hands and legs in play. Try reciting rhymes or nonsense songs and see if your little one begins trying to imitate the sound you are producing.
- 4-6 Months: Your baby will start sounding single syllables at this stage, mostly ba, pa, ma. Continue singing the nonsense songs and allow your little one time to respond and reply. A wind chime toy or other musical hanging toys within your baby’s reach can let him explore the possibility of joining your singing by hitting the musical toys with hands and feet. At this stage, it could be nice to sing songs that include bouncing your baby in your lap or singing while playing with homemade percussion instruments, like pots, pans, etc.
- 6-9 Months: Babies gradually become more mobile at this point, exploring crawling by stretching and pushing forward or back, which also effects their vocality. Your baby will repeat syllables, move to sound and sometimes even produce sounds that resemble what he hears. This is a nice time to start playing peek-a-boo games and adding songs about body parts or animals. Babies will soon master the art of clapping, which will add another lovely sound element to playtime and interaction.
- 9-12 Months: Babies’ desire to be active participants in a conversation becomes more dominant and you might even notice your little one trying to sing along when you sing a familiar song. Instead of adding new songs to your repertoire, repeat the familiar ones and encourage baby to join in by completing the ends of sentences. Another nice thing you can do is accompany the songs with a rhythm you create using improvised instruments. Your curious little baby will love to bang various surfaces and objects, observing the differences between the sounds they produce.
One song with a single verse is like a whole world to babies, so there really is no need to go for anything too long or complicated.
Music & Singing Tips
- Why Sing? Talking is great, but newborns actually tend to be more interested in interaction when their parents sing, so it’s worth adding a melody to your words.
- Repeat the Song - Sing a short song to your baby three times, very slowly with pauses in between while maintaining eye contact. When the face and voice come together it offers the best stimulation and draws baby’s attention.
- Keep it Short - One song with a single verse is like a whole world to babies, so there really is no need to go for anything too long or complicated.
- Repetition & Contrast – Songs that are particularly appropriate for babies are mostly repetitive, or contrasting (for example fast and then slow) or may include a surprise element. Such songs or rhymes combine language and music in a way that supports your little one’s evolving skills.
- Adapt your Style – Adapt the way you sing and change is according to your baby’s reactions. Try singing a bit louder or a bit quieter, faster or slower, adding more facial expressions, etc.
- Move your Mouth - As babies grow, they gradually learn to find the source of the voice and will be intrigued by the changing shape of the mouth as you sing and speak, so make your gestures especially clear and pronounced.
- The Joy of Anticipation – When your baby gets to know a short song or rhyme through repetition, he begins to develop the ability to anticipate what is coming next, which excites him and, at the same time, reassures him and helps him make sense of his surroundings.
- Add Movement for Extra Fun - Adding hand gestures, rocking motions or moving babies’ hands or feet with the rhythm can augment the experience, marking it in baby’s mind as a fun sensory experience. Then, when she hears the song again, even without the parent nearby, that emotional sensory memory will reemerge, giving your child a sense of security and calmness.
- Link Different Songs to Different Activities – You can incorporate musical games into any part of your day, transforming diaper changing and getting dressed into moments of magic and play. Have a special song for each activity, for example one you sing when getting ready for a bath, a bedtime song, etc. These songs will mark transitions and help baby become more familiar with the daily schedule and understand what’s coming next.
- Find the Right Timing - When it comes to infants and young babies, it’s important to find the right time for it. For example, before placing your little one in the bouncer or under a mobile to enjoy some independent playtime, it could be a good idea to enjoy some joint activity that includes singing, movement and playing with a musical instrument or a toy that produces a pleasant sound, like one of the large-eyed mobile dolls, which encourage vocal interaction and eye contact.