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.
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.