Trying to find the answer to what might calm a new baby can be overwhelming. There’s an endless amount of conflicting advice and opinion on how to rear happy children and aid their development, and picking your way through it can cause more sleepless nights than colic, teething and soggy nappies combined!
My own answer was music. As a trained classical musician and having taught music to very young children, I was aware, long before becoming a mum, of the importance of introducing babies to music as soon as possible.
The ear is the first organ to develop fully in the womb, enabling babies to take comfort in the music of their mother’s voice at just 11 weeks. All children are born with instinctive musicality and only if this is encouraged early enough will a child fulfil their natural musical potential.
But the benefits of music for very young children, particularly when taught within a group, go much deeper than this. Early exposure to singing, listening to and playing music can sharpen up a whole range of educational skills. Language and numerical skills flourish through action songs and rhymes; fine motor skills are refined through playing hand held percussion instruments, while an awareness of space and one another is developed through movement. The children’s confidence and self-esteem grows rapidly as their involvement in the group increases.
Music makes us feel good, whatever our age, and sharing a song with your child is precious time spent together and makes your child feel loved.
Tips for including music in your day:
Our voices are as individual as our fingerprints and newborn babies bond emotionally to the sound of their family members. So, with your baby loving the sound of your voice (however bad you may think it is!) you should try and make each day a day for singing.
If you are stuck for inspiration then a good music class will give you lots of ideas for how to create opportunities to sing throughout the day.
To start with, though, you can rely on old nursery rhyme favourites as they include important musical ingredients such as movement, expression and simple repeated phrases. ‘This is the Way the Baby Rides’ is a great song for bouncing up and down and shows your baby how repeated rhythm and words work together. ‘This Little Piggy Went to Market’ focuses attention on sounds and rhythm as you touch each toe and end with a tickle.
You should also expose your baby to a wide range of musical styles and genres as he will be focusing on the sounds that are common in his environment and ignoring sounds that aren’t. Make a point of also playing with basic percussion instruments which will increase his perception of sound and pitch.
At the end of the day music can be very calming. Lullabies with simple tunes, elongated vowel sounds and repeating rhythms are perfect for a sleepy but growing baby.
For many parents music has gone a long way to answering the eternal question, ‘what’s best for my baby?’. For others, music classes are simply a time to enjoy being part of a local community and meeting new parents. As for the children? They’re having such a good time that they barely seem to notice how clever they are!