Music is vocal or instrumental sounds that combine to produce beauty of harmony and expression of emotions. It is an amazing way to bond with your young child or grandchild and connect generations, and a remarkable tool for learning.
- Singing is among the most meaningful activities we share with children.
Scientists report that tiny infants show sensitivity to rhythm and pitch and can distinguish familiar melodies. Dr Mehr of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto stated that, across class and culture, a babies’ memory for music is astounding and “they’re incredibly perceptive listeners.”
His work has demonstrated that 5-month-olds whose parents sing them a song for just a week or two remember that melody eight months later. When they encounter strangers who sing to them in the lab, they pay more attention to someone singing the familiar melody than a different song, even one with the same words and rhythms.
Further research showed that at 11 months, babies exposed to a song for one to two weeks will choose an object (a small stuffed lion) offered by a stranger singing the familiar song, preferring it to one presented by a stranger whose song they don’t know.
- Infants pay more attention to singing than to speech
Dr Trehub, Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, has shown that in a dim lab, 7- to 10-month-olds will listen to recorded singing for an average of nine minutes before they start fussing or crying, twice as long as they attend to recorded speech. “It’s a terrific distraction from a distressing event,” Dr Trehub said. “You start singing and they’re completely transported.”
At any moment in time babies are confronted with strange new sights, sounds and experiences. This may explain why they respond so strongly to repetition. When we sing the same songs over and over, “infants have expectations about what comes next,” Dr Trehub explained. “When their expectations are fulfilled, that’s rewarding and comforting.”
- Music can be used to comfort and reassure children
Dr Mehr’s theory is that when an adult sings to a child it shows that they are paying attention, something enormously important to vulnerable babies. “It’s a signal of who’s a friend, a member of my group”. It doesn’t much matter how well or poorly you sing. It’s the attention and the emotion that kids respond to.
- Music can be used as a teaching tool
Simple songs are perfect tools to teach the alphabet, counting, the times tables or even another language. Through touch a baby discovers different textures or variations of temperature and begins to understand their world. Songs that incorporate play with fingers and toes are fun, but they’re also great for learning numbers or increasing awareness of fine motor skills.
A child can learn just by moving their hands in rhythm with a song. They can connect with you as you teach them the signs hand over hand; they can learn basic turn taking skills; they may find themselves motivated to reach high above them as they do Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; or they might learn body awareness as they do Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes; plus they’ll have fun doing it because music always makes things more enjoyable!
- Music can be a way of introducing a child to their history, heritage and culture.
As parents and grandparents, sharing simple songs helps your child to discover that they are part of an on-going story and that they have a special place in their family. Singing songs to children in the first language of their Grandparents, or parents is a strong way to build identity and develop language skills.
Music is an activity that can create a sense of inclusion and happiness. Some of us would have experienced singing songs together as a family while on holidays, or on long journeys. Children then identify these particular songs with positive experiences.
Singing and making music with a young child is a great way to spend time together. It’s learning, it’s bonding, it’s creative and will make both of you feel great!
Written by Lise Robin