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The effect of music is very apparent to anyone who watches babies respond to the sing-song of their mother’s voice as they learn to listen and communicate.
Long before they learn to speak, babies respond to the sound of music. Mothers often notice that when they are pregnant, the baby responds to certain kinds of music. Some mothers have even reported that their baby reacts to the music associated with their favourite TV program. This response continues after the baby is born.
Parents instinctively communicate with infants in a musical manner, using a wide range of sing-song-like phrases. This melodic use of voice, referred to as ‘motherese’, is used across all cultures. Parents find that their babies respond very positively to such communication, in fact, babies actually encourage it by rewarding their parents with smiling, lighting up their eyes, gurgling and paying close attention to the face of the singer. This high-pitched, sing-song speech style has also been found to help babies connect objects to words. By six months of age a baby can recognise the vowel sounds that are basic building blocks of speech. Click here to watch our free video with ideas and activities to help your baby’s speech and hearing development.
Researchers have found that when a person listens to music, the brain responds in several different areas. Not only are the auditory (hearing and interpretation of sound) centres of the brain responding, but areas of the brain that involve other kinds of thinking and emotions, also respond. Think about the music you chose to play when you want your baby to sleep. Quiet, melodic music calms your baby’s emotional response while playing up-tempo music is more likely to arouse your baby and stimulate play.
If you expose young babies and children to music in their homes, on testing they will show enhanced auditory brain activity in comparison to children who are not regularly exposed to music. This suggests that playing music regularly to babies may help to stimulate development…so that little bit of singing you do with your baby every day is not only fun, it is great for your baby’s brain! Click here to watch our free video: Music and Rhythm for your Baby.
Musical activities to share with your baby
- Begin by introducing your young baby to music by playing soothing music quietly in his/her room. Classical music is very stimulating to the brain, especially music by Mozart, Vivaldi and other music from the Baroque period.
- Sing nursery rhymes with your baby. Repeat the same rhymes regularly.
- Massage your baby while playing music or singing to them, stroking in time to the music. Free massage video here.
- Tickling rhymes are a must. “Round and round the garden” is a familiar one to start with.
- Vary the tone of your voice when talking to your baby: talk, hum, sing and chant (especially rhymes, poems) during changing, feeding etc.
- Introduce new songs that have different rhythms. Baby will begin to recognize the faster or slower beat.
- Singing can be done with movement from birth. Start by rocking or swaying your infant while playing a piece of music, singing a rhyme or saying a poem. Lay the baby across your lap and bob your knees gently up and down, or rock sideways. Bouncing activities such as “Ride a cockhorse” begin to introduce the ‘beat’ of the music
At GymbaROO we know that you are your baby’s first and most important teacher. If you are unable to get to a GymbaROO or KindyROO centre, you can now join in and learn with our FREE online video series on baby development (Aust and NZ). This online series is taking the parenting world by storm! It is highly recommended by doctors, paediatricians, early childhood experts and the Maternal Child and Family Health Nurses Association. It is being called: “The essential guide for parents.” Join the thousands of parents already playing with their babies from birth, in the best way for brain and body development and laying crucial foundations for future learning. What happens in the first year, not only matters, it matters a lot! Active Babies Smart Kids BabyROO series – Click here.
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Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, RN(Paeds)) is the Research and Education General Manager for GymbaROO and KindyROO. Dr Williams is one of Australia’s leading experts on baby and child development. More on Dr Williams here.
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