So, you can’t play the piano or sing well? There’s plenty that you can – and should – do to raise a music lover.
Babies & Music
Newborns know more about listening than they do about seeing. It makes sense, doesn’t it? For nine months in your womb, they’ve been listening – to your voice, to the music you’ve played, and to the sounds around you. “When babies are born, they are already engaged with sound, music and language,” says Professor Larry Scripp, founding director of the Center for Music-in-Education at the New England Conservatory in the United States. “These are the first intelligences that characterize the growing mind, which make music and speech so important.”
Your baby’s brain is being shaped right from her first days. The more you immerse her in an environment rich with sounds, movement, play and touch, the smarter and healthier her young brain will grow. Simply put, music plays an important role in boosting your baby’s brainpower in the long term. That’s why it is never too early to bring music into your child’s world, so keep the iPod on play from the time Baby is born. “It’s the same as language. If you speak a language around the house, the child is going to speak it,” he explains.
Get Her Groove On
But what’s a mum to do if she can’t carry a tune or has little musical talent? The good news is, you don’t need to be a maestro. What’s more important is how you engage with your kid. “The more interactive the activities are, the more the child will respond, and the more she will grow,” says Prof Scripp. “If you strap your baby down and tell her to listen to music for an hour, that’s probably not going to do any good at all. She has to be responding in some way.”
Make funny faces while bouncing with your little one to the rhythm of a catchy song; sing and clap or grab her hands to follow suit. “In a baby’s world, everything is synthesised. Things that go together are the most interesting, such as movement with music,” shares Prof Scripp. “It’s fine even if you can’t sing that well. Keep doing it.” Have instruments around the house. “Especially unbreakable ones!” he advises. Hand drums are good, as are keyboards.
“I take little round stickers and put them on certain keys and ask the child to play those keys… and, soon, the kid will learn that with these notes, she can sing to the tune of Hot Cross Buns!” he says, breaking into song. And don’t forget to sing, sing, sing, he reiterates.
Start a routine in Baby’s first two years. For instance, play the same melody at bedtime; this allows her to associate going to sleep with it. You can also build on variations of the same musical experience. Repeat a similar dance movement, but with different music, or vice versa. “Later in life, she will be excited about discovering new music. But, for now, introduce her to the same thing to build familiarity and connection,” he adds.
Beyonce vs. Beethoven
What kind of music should you play? “It’s all trial and error,” Prof Scripp believes. “If you put on some music and your baby starts to cry, you know you’ve made the wrong choice. Or if she looks towards a certain direction when you play a piece of music, then you’ve made the right choice.” Go ahead and expose your little one to genres you like – she is getting to know you, as well. What if you prefer music from Beyonce to Beethoven?
Prof Scripp says it doesn’t necessarily always have to be classical tunes or nursery rhymes. “Beyonce is an amazing singer. So, sure, because your child will be hearing a beautiful voice singing beautiful music,” he adds. Of course, what you play depends on the intention. If you wish to soothe your bub, calming quiet tunes work. If it’s playtime, turn up the volume with dance tracks. When your little one is about 18 months, consider sending her for well-rounded music classes, where she can sing and learn to play a variety of instruments.
Don’t simply sign her up to learn how to play one instrument. “Kids can choose their instrument later on but, for now, you want them to be music-literate, not piano- or violin-literate,” advises Prof Scripp. Look for educators who are keen on inculcating a love of music in the child. Try a trial lesson or observe a class first before signing up with a teacher or school.
Ready to buy that piano for junior? Read this first!
By Wyn-Lyn Tan, Young Parents, December 2014