Singing With Your Baby

Text below taken from the introduction to Music Together®® BABIES Songbook©

Used by Permission of Copyright Owner, Music Together, LCC Princeton, NJ

Is my baby too young for music class?

Babies have already been listening and responding to music, language, and other sounds for as much as half of their lives before birth. A child is never too young to hear and respond to music or language.

You can observe your baby’s response to music.

Babies respond to sounds in utero. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton has reported that 97% of newborns recognize their mother’s voice at birth. Dr. Lorna Zemke has pioneered a prenatal music program with convincing results that newborns recognize songs sung while in utero.

Most babies move physically when music starts or stops. They often show a “startle response” when a change in music occurs, even when asleep, and even at just a few days old.

It is crucial for parents to support the child’s music development by providing a musical environment. If we support language, language will develop. If we support music, music will develop.

Visible ways babies respond to music:

* During the music, the baby may stop her usual movements or activity and seem to stare intently or freeze. When the music stops, the baby will often change activity again.

* Feet are outstretched;

* Feet kick;

* Eyes “brighten” or change focus;

* Tongue moves in repetitive motion;

* Eyes move towards the sound source;

* Hands clench;

* Hands wave wildly in the air;

* Middle of torso moves rhythmically;

* Baby makes cooing sounds;

* Baby smiles or giggles.

Your baby’s intellectual development:

We need to be working with music while children are very young, when the brain is most open to shape new neural pathways and when the baby is already well equipped to respond to music.

For any young child, music is highly developmental. We need to view music making as a basic life skill just like walking or talking.

Make music every day:

Children who are exposed to music and given an opportunity to watch their adult caregivers make music will often use singing and movement in their free play.

Ages birth through six are crucial:

This is the time that neural pathways develop most rapidly. This is the time of life when the window is fully open for musical growth and development, when children can unscramble and organize the aural (listening) images of music most easily.

Just as all children are born with the potential to learn their native language; all children are born with the potential to learn their native music. At birth a baby can cry, squeal, giggle, and coo ---- everything she needs to sing later on!

Most children will begin to sing independently when they are about eighteen months old.How we support them or fail to support them will affect when they begin to sing. A child cannot sing independently unless she has been sung to.

You are important:

While music skills can be learned from a teacher, the motivation to enjoy music making can be learned only from people who care for the baby. A love of music cannot be taught to a baby through teacher instruction or passively absorbed from a CD player or television. Babies can learn to love and enjoy music only through you and the caregivers you choose.

When caregivers genuinely enjoy an activity, the children, wanting to be like the adults, will, too. And none of this has anything to do with how well you “perform” the activity!

When you sing or chant to your child, pat to the beat while changing a diaper, dance with him in your arms, or play musical call-and-response games, you are providing:

* Sensory stimulation in the context of a loving environment;

* Rich and valuable language and musical experiences;

* An opportunity to learn about your child’s temperament and skills;

* Practice for your baby in imitating sounds;

* Practice in vocal and movement skills;

* Practice for many nonmusical skills.

Music Together was developed by the Center for Music and Young Children, Princeton NJ. Music Together, CMYC, and Center for Music and Young Children are registered trademarks.

For more information about other Music Together locations visit www.musictogether.com.