Like many parents, we do a night-time routine with our children. After bath and brushing teeth, we read stories and we always end the night with songs.
Both of my children love music, particularly my 21-month old daughter
As I’m rocking her, the lights turned off, she giggles and says two words over and over -“Next song.”
We run through all the classics, Bah, Bah Black Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Ants Go Marching, Five Green Speckled Frogs, You are my sunshine, Hickory Dickory Dock… the list goes on and on. We make up songs. We change the words of old favorites. We do more than a dozen songs at night.
She loves music.
Both of my children were exposed to music at a young age through a music class called Music Together.
As a new parent I quickly learned the power of music. It can soothe a fussy baby. It can lull a baby to sleep. Silly songs can be a fun way to motivate children to brush their teeth, eat their food or finish their chores.
Music has also been shown to have incredible benefits for a child’s development and health.
A Brigham Young University study exposed 33 babies in neonatal intensive care to lullabies for four days in a couple of 20-minute sessions. The babies who heard music playing were able to leave the hospital three days earlier than babies in a control group who were not exposed to music. Their heart rates were lower. They gained weight faster and had better overall outcomes.
The early years of a child’s life (birth to 6) is a period when a child ‘s brain is building pathways, Winkler explains.
Much the way a child’s exposure to language in the first few months lays the ground work for the child eventually speaking, introducing music to a young baby helps feed their music growth and development.
“If we waited for children to show a gift for language before we started to talk to them, they wouldn’t be nearly as literate if we started talking to our children on day one,” Winkler says.
Winkler believes in teaching children to love music just for music’s sake. But she also notes the many positive aspects. “Studies show children exposed to music tend to be more successful at school,” she says.
There are many ways parents can introduce music to their children. One way is a class like Music Together, a national program with a specific-research based curriculum.
Parents can also expose their children to songs at home.
- Grab pots, pans, spatulas and spoons and play along with CDs in an impromptu jam session
- Take the concept of the song “Bingo” and drop off certain words of a classic song or make up a version of your own.
- Make home-made instruments. Put dried rice or dried beans in a small Tupperware container and make your own maracas.
- Do a music follow the leader. Follow your child’s lead and sing your baby’s ‘babble” back to him or her.
It doesn’t matter if you singing off-key or without perfect pitch. What matters is your child hearing your voice, melody, different rhythms and beats.
There are many ways to introduce music to your young baby or toddler. But instilling a love of music in your child is a gift that will stay with them for a lifetime.