As we mark World Nursery Rhyme Week on 16th-21st November 2021, Jo Jingles share with us their top 10 tips for enjoying music with your baby.
Does your baby enjoy listening to music? Do you find yourself singing to your child? Perhaps when you were pregnant you found your baby would react to loud or stimulating music? This is no coincidence…
Most of us instinctively understand that our children react positively to songs, but what we may not fully appreciate is how those endless repetitions of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little, Star” are a fundamental part of our babies’ mental, physical and social development, helping our children to develop their speech and improve their co-ordination.
So, what is so special about music and how can regular exposure to it help our children in their early years’ development? When a baby is born, the neurons in the brain are largely unconnected and exposure to different stimuli helps develop their neural networks. Much research has also shown that music can act as a stimulus to “wire up” the brain more rapidly and speed up a child’s mental development. In fact, it is believed that exposing young babies to music can increase the speed of neural connections even before they are born.
Music can also help significantly with language development in small children. As babies start to babble, they are picking up the “phonemes” or building blocks of their own language. It may sound like gibberish to start with, but through babbling babies will gradually settle on the sounds of their mother tongue, starting with simple utterances such as “mama” and “dada”.
Babies will imitate sounds and make melodic experimentations; using simple rhythmic patters and rhymes like those found in nursery rhymes helps them to develop their ability to make meaningful sounds and eventually words. It’s no accident that some of our most popular rhymes contain lots of repetition of those linguistic building blocks – “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Row Row Row your Boat” spring to mind. So when your child is asking you to sing the same song for the hundredth time, just remember how it is helping them with their speech!
And finally, don’t forget the social and emotional benefits that music can provide. Put simply, music is fun for both adults and children alike.
- Sing to your child regularly. It can be useful to incorporate music into your daily routine – lots of children love singing at bath time, or enjoy a favourite song at nappy change time. Don’t worry if you are not the world’s most competent singer just be enthusiastic and they will love it!
- Songs can also help children learn about the world around them. There are lots of number songs, which help toddlers learn to count. And you can also explore concepts such as colours, animals, transport and even telling the time through song.
- Make music active. It’s not enough simply to put on a CD of nursery rhymes, unless you join in and interact with your child – it won’t have the same level of impact so get moving!
- Very young children respond best to very simple songs and traditional nursery rhymes. Some CDs available in the shops have complicated rhythms more suited to a nightclub rather than a nursery, so try to avoid these if you can.
- Playing instruments, dancing, clapping and using movement in simple action songs, can also help with your child’s motor skills and develop their general co-ordination. Try to incorporate movement or dance around the room while the song plays.
- Invest in some percussion instruments or make your own – rainmakers, bells, maracas, tambourines, castanets, etc, are all available from local toyshops. Or you could improvise – for example, bang yoghurt pots together, fill a shampoo bottle with dried peas (and fasten securely!) to make a shaker, use two saucepan lids to make a fantastic pair of cymbals.
- Props are also a fun element of music making. Why not hide behind scarves whilst singing a peekaboo song, use soft farmyard toys for “Old McDonald” or liven up “The Wheels on the Bus” by using streamers with the actions. Try showing your child pictures to accompany the songs they are singing, so they understand the concepts more quickly.
- Help develop listening skills by exploring different styles of music together and see how your child reacts.
- If you haven’t sung a nursery rhyme for 20 years and have forgotten all the words, there are lots of ways of reminding yourself. Apart from buying a CD or downloading tracks online, you could try out a toddler group. Most have a 5-10 minute “sing song” at the end and this will help you to remember some of the more popular tunes.
- Music helps to strengthen the bonds of trust and communication between adults and children. Encouraging this kind of musical activity at home can help with their self-expression and confidence in later life. So, what are you waiting for?
Want more? We’ve picked out the best rhyming books for baby.