Make a Little Magic with Music
Your baby might not know the difference between Beethoven and the Beatles just yet, but that doesn’t mean she’s not ready for some music appreciation. Research has shown that music can boost babies’ development in lots of ways, like helping improve listening skills and memory. It can also turn a grouchy baby into a happy one (and that one’s mama-tested!). Here are seven ideas to get your little one in a musical state of mind.
1. Let them make music their own way
Banging on piano keys and clanging pots and pans together might not sound like the kind of music we download on iTunes, but for babies and toddlers it’s their own symphony of sound. “Making music is a birthright for all of us, and if we raise our children with that attitude, then they’ll know themselves as music makers,” says Christine Antonelli, a mother of two in Albuquerque, New Mexico who serves as the creative director for Creating Something.
2. Go where the music is
An outing to a music-filled event, where melody is the backdrop to character-filled entertainment — such as “Disney on Ice” — has all the ingredients to fully engage a baby. After the event, you can sing the songs you both heard and talk about how the music was affecting the characters. This can work even for the littlest of babies; for example, “Nemo happy,” then smile, and hum the upbeat music that went with that part of the story.
3. Give your baby’s day a soundtrack
“Children who grew up in homes where music was a big part of their lives and where quality music was played on a regular basis are the ones that come to lessons because they want to, not because they were made to,” says Christen Stephens, a music teacher in Colorado. So keep music a regular part of your day: in the car, while you’re making dinner, when they’re headed for bed. “Play classical, rock, pop, or fun children’s songs — don’t be afraid to experiment. If toddlers begin to dance or move around the room, you are on the right track!”
4. Never underestimate the power of a pint-sized piano
Give babies and toddlers access to their own instruments — miniature maracas, easy-to-hold egg shakers, clicky sticks — and turn on a song. Show how the instruments make different sounds to the beats in the music.
5. Break out the non-musical toys, too
You can keep music around even when you’re just playing with regular toys. “There are lots of stuffed animals that have a musical element to them — like bears that play lullabies when you push the ears,” says Candi Wingate, mother of two in Northgate, Nebraska, who owns Nannies4Hire. “These kinds of toys help keep music around, even if it’s not the focus.”
6. Take a class
Baby music lessons are all about movement and exploration; dancing silly dances, diving into a box filled with different kinds of instruments, watching the teacher play a guitar and sing. Each element is set to music in a low-stress atmosphere that’s big on fun.
7. Sing them to sleep
There’s a reason that moms and dads have been lulling their babies to sleep with soft songs for centuries. “To a young child, there is no better gift, nothing more perfect then the sound of a loving voice singing to them, no matter what that voice may sound like to us,” says Antonelli. “Babies’ brains create a view of what the world is, how magical, how beautiful it is that we can help them to make that world musical, and all we really have to do is sing.”