You are your child’s first and most important teacher. You may have heard this before but it’s a valuable reminder. Here’s why…
When a baby is born, their brain contains billions of neurons waiting to be wired.
The brain grows rapidly in the first few years of life and forms trillions of connections called synapses. Yes, trillions! These synapses help the brain do everything from using a spoon to remembering the words to a song. Experiences in early childhood determine their strength.
Musical experiences are one of the most powerful ways to develop your baby’s brain power.
This is because music activates every part of the brain.
If your first reaction to this is “but I don’t know anything about music”, then be assured that engaging in music activities with your baby is easier than you think.
Here are four music activities that you can do to help boost your baby’s development.
4 ways to boost your baby’s learning through music
1. Listen and move to music
Start simple—play your favourite music and dance with your baby. As you move together to music, you are activating different areas of your baby’s brain at the same time, meaning their brain is functioning at a higher level!
Make sure you put your baby in a position that’s ideal for their age and comfort and try switching up the position frequently (through their legs facing out, fly them on your arms, in a carrier, on your hip). Hold them tight and move fluidly.
Try listening to different kinds of music—everything from classical and jazz to world music (music from other cultures is excellent for exposing your baby to varying rhythmic and metrical patterns).
You should freeze for a few seconds during the music to give the baby’s body time to process all that movement and prepare for the next round.
2. Sing to your baby
Singing to your baby has a lot of benefits, so even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s still worth giving it a go. More than talking, singing keeps babies calm and can promote stronger social bonds with parents, better health, and better language development.
Include singing in your daily activities. Sing a lullaby to your baby at bedtime, sing a morning song to them when they wake up, sing a song when it’s time to change their nappy, and during other routine transition times.
You can personalise a song to suit the experience such as “This is the way we change Liam’s nappy, change Liam’s nappy, change Liam’s nappy, this is the way we change your nappy on a Monday morning.”
It’s quite alright to sing the same songs over and over as babies learn from repetition. What’s more, a familiar song lets your little one know what’s coming next, which helps them to feel secure.
3. Nursery Rhymes
Nursery rhymes may appear to be outdated, yet they play a crucial part in the development of our children. Combining nursery rhymes with actions promotes language and communication skills, cognitive and physical development.
Knee bounce rhymes are a fun method to keep your baby’s vestibular system, sense of balance and core strength developing. For younger babies with weak neck strength, lay them over your thighs and make bouncing movements smaller.
Sit older babies with stronger necks on your lap, facing you, holding onto their sides or hands and bouncing as much as they like. Try rhymes such as This is the Way the Ladies Ride, The Grand Old Duke of York and To Market, To Market.
Finger plays are a great way to entertain your baby in a waiting room. Recite a simple rhyme as you perform movement with and on your baby’s body parts such as gently wriggling their finger or toes, or tickling their skin with your fingers.
Some examples are: This Little Piggy, Round and Round the Garden and Incy Wincy Spider.
4. Play Instruments
Playing basic percussion instruments with your baby is lots of fun. It not only assists their physical development (fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness) but also expands areas of their brain that master language.
Expose your child to a wide range of musical toys such as drums, tambourines, xylophones, maracas and other shakers by showing them how to make the sound and then encouraging them to have a go. Play some funky music and shake or tap along together. Your baby will love expressing themselves through music and who knows, they may just be a budding musician!
So there you have it, four easy and fun ways you can do music with your baby. Set aside some time for music or include it as often as you can in your everyday routines and your child is sure to gain a lifetime of benefits.