Music and Babies

black and white photo of toddler

first music steps

From time to time I am asked if babies should be taught music, or if 18 months is too early to start music, and once, could an 18-month old start learning piano as the mother had started putting the baby’s hands on the piano and felt they could cope!  In this case the answer was NO!  But as to whether the very young are ready for a music experience there is not a clear answer.

Babies are receptive to music from the womb.  I discovered that after playing a certain Chopin Nocturne through my pregnancy, my new-born baby was particularly soothed by that piece of music.  I was surprised when singing to my new-born who rarely slept and with whom I spent many hours walking the flour and singing, that when I sang Rock-a-bye Baby for the hundredth time he became very distressed, until I realised I had sung it to the wrong tune.  When I sang the correct tune all was well!

This, other personal experiences and reading much literature, seems to suggest that exposing a baby to music from an early age creates a life-long love of music and a happy baby.  I encourage parents to enjoy music with their baby and sing to them often.  Your baby will not be critical of your voice but a strong bond will be created.

However I don’t think babies need to be “taught” music.  There are music classes for babies and some of the better ones, such as Kindermusik are excellent.  Most of the experiences are a way of teaching the mums possibilities that they can do with their baby at home and there is nothing wrong with this.  These classes provide a great way to meet with other mums whose children are a similar age and life-long friendships have started that way.  But don’t worry if you don’t want to take your baby to a class, don’t have the time, or can’t afford to.  Most of the ideas you can do yourself at home if you enjoy involving your baby in music.  Certainly there is evidence that music helps brain development.  But your child’s brain will develop just fine without it.

Here are 12 ways to enjoy music with your baby:

1.  Play and sing music when you are pregnant.

2.  Play and sing to your newborn.

3.  Continue to sing to your baby as they get older, particularly to soothe and put to sleep (lullabies are great!).

4.  Listen to a variety of music with your baby.

liquorice assorts arranged in row

Life is a game

5.  Dance to music with your baby.

6.  Massage your baby gently to soothing music.

7.  Stimulate your baby’s skin while listening to gentle music or singing, eg. stroking with flower petal, soft material, trickling water….

8.  Giving your baby a ride on a blanket to appropriate music.

9.  Bouncing your baby to music, older babies will like it rougher, especially to horsie songs!!

10. Swing your baby in a blanket (2 adults needed!) to lullaby.

11. Use soothing music at feeding time for a fretful baby, or for fussy-eater older baby.

12. Tap the beat of a song gently on baby’s back.

Making Music part of Family life

Brother And Sister Playing Piano

the right start

So you have always wanted to play the piano and now your child is learning!  Everything is fine… or is it?  Did you know that children are unlikely to commit to learning if their parents are not very interested?  I mean, why should they, when you clearly don’t value it yourself?  Your children reflect your attitudes. So make music an important part of your life. Make music something the whole family enjoys.

Here are some ideas and thoughts.

1.    Music is a vital part of life, expressing our deepest emotions in a way that words can’t. It’s a great de-stresser.

2.    Rhythm is a fundamental part of who we are. Our hearts beat, we have sleep cycles, monthly cycles, digestion cycles. Moods can even be affected by the moon! Rhythm speaks to us like nothing else, hence the strong beat of popular music. A sense rhythm affects everything we do, even walking and playing sports. Beat is deeply satisfying and increases happiness.

3.    We are stirred by sounds of nature and try to replicate this in music.

4.    Our voice is our own inbuilt instrument, a great place to start discovering music. We were born to sing!

5.    Young babies are fascinated by sound and in fact respond to the music that they first heard in the womb.

family playing a game

being part of the family

6.    You cannot do better than introduce music to babies and encourage your young child to sing, move, dance, and make sounds in a relaxed and happy manner. Go on, have fun!

7.    Music training covers so many skills that learning an instrument can, and often does, rub off in other subjects, improving those areas also.

8.    Music enhances children’s play.

9.   Before starting piano lessons, make sure family music is an everyday part of your life.

Piano is a great first instrument.  It teaches all the basics of music and is really good for coordination.  It should only be learned when your child is ready, and with a great deal of support from you.

Music is for everyone, a beautiful part of life.  Make music part of your daily life.