Making Music Part of Your Baby’s Life
1. Play All Kinds of Music
To adults, music seems to flow smoothly and naturally, matching our expectations of what the next phrase will bring. Break the rules of musical construction that we have learned to rely on, however, and that melodious experience can become an almost painful one. Listening to the melodies, rhythms or harmonies common to other cultures is often unpleasant. People raised in Western cultures tend to prefer music that is both harmonious and melodious – a characteristic of music typically heard in these societies. In contrast, Westerners have a more difficult time appreciating Asian compositions, where the music simply doesn’t sound “right.” If young children are exposed to a wide variety of musical forms, however, they often come to appreciate and enjoy a wide variety of music. So let your child enjoy “Frere Jacques,” Latvian folk music and Mozart – it is all in good fun and it exercises her brain.
Young children learn best through play and through an unstructured learning environment. Children take to music naturally, weaving it into their games and their play with other children and adults. This is not the age to introduce formal instrumental instruction. It is the age to play music games with your children, to play a wide range of music, sing, dance, whistle and hum!
2. Play Complex Music Playing a wide range of music is a great gift to your child, but it may be wise to emphasize certain types. Mozart, for example, is probably preferable to Motley Crue. The reason is that music written according to complex structural forms, such as classical music, creates more coherence in brain wave patterns. Remember that while Mozart is the composer everyone always talks about when talk turns to babies and music, other complex musical forms, such as Bach and Peruvian folk music, are thought to have the same effect.
3. Use Music to Help Your Child’s Memory
Jeffrey Fagan and his colleagues at St. John’s University Department of Psychology provide evidence that infants as young as three months use music as a cue when remembering things. The researchers gave the infants a motor task to learn in the presence of a musical composition. After seven days, these infants recalled the task better if the same music was played than if another piece of music was played. Fagan suggests that providing appropriate memory cues, such as music, can assist your baby in retrieving information that she has already learned.
This presents a terrific way for parents to cue their babies. Sing a little song at bathtime or when dressing your baby – the same little song every time – and try to remember that repeating the same song can help her understand what a song is, as well as helping her predict and anticipate the changes in melody and words. It can also help make daily transitions easier.
What do babies like best? Researchers have found that infants prefer certain kinds of music:
• Infants can discriminate high tones much better than low tones. This is one reason why babies enjoy the high-pitched sound of the female voice, Parentese and the operatic voices of sopranos.
• Infants prefer melodies in a major key.
• Infants like listening to music that is simple and repetitive.
Your baby, however, may break the mold. Whatever your baby seems to respond to is the best kind of music to play.
4. Start Saving for Music Lessons
Babies and young children cannot play the piano, violin or clarinet, but it is a good idea to plan on introducing a musical instrument at the earliest appropriate age – most likely around age six years. The one obvious benefit is that early exposure to music and music training builds a foundation for later study of music. In a fashion similar to what we have seen for language, a child who is surrounded with the irresistible sounds of music has been provided a basis for learning a musical instrument later in life. Edwin E. Gordon, Professor in Residence at the University of South Carolina, has found that early musical experiences, properly timed and ordered, raise a child’s musical aptitude. So the smart thing may be to wait on the lessons, but start a savings account to pay for them when the right time comes.
5. Sing, Dance, Bounce and Tap
Although it is too early to enroll your baby in a formal music program, there are any number of musical activities you can engage in with your baby – singing, dancing or bouncing and tapping to the rhythm whenever you listen to music. Below, we have listed our five favorite categories of music activities, provided by Lynn Kleiner, founder of Music Rhapsody.
Great Musical Games
Chair Games: By chair games we mean mom or dad is sitting comfortably in a chair, and baby is sitting propped up on their knees. Mom or dad starts singing a rhyme or a song – such as “This is the Way the Ladies Ride” – and bouncing to the beat of the rhyme. You can alternate between having the baby face you and face away from you as you play.
Floor Games: For floor games, move to a rug or a pad on the floor. In some games, mom or dad lies down, placing the infant carefully to rest on the parent’s upper legs, with knees bent. Baby is then supported at the shoulders while mom’s or dad’s knees bounce up and down gently to the beat. “Humpty Dumpty” is a good example of a floor game.
Massage Games: Massage games involve massage, but are performed in rhythm to the beat of the music. Mom or dad massages the baby to the rhythm of his or her voice. Your hands move to the rhythm, as you stroke or gently touch your baby. An example is “Round and Round the Garden,” where you make the circular motions in her palm, walk up her arm and tickle under her chin, all as you sing the song.
Action Rhymes: Action rhymes are games in which you gently move your baby’s hands, arms or legs. How you hold or touch the baby is not the key; it is how you gently manipulate your child’s body to the pulse of the music. An example is “Hickory, Dickory, Dock” or “The Wheels on the Bus.”
Tickling Games: Tickling games are activities in which tickling is used as the climax to a rhyme or song. “This Little Piggy” is a good example of a tickling game.