Active Music-Making with Your Baby Part I: Interaction Through Song
By Sarah Fassmann
Sarah Fassmann is a mom of two, cellist, a piano teacher, an early childhood music teacher, and a new Suzuki violin parent. She loves hiking, canoeing, singing, and playing the piano without any children crying.
If you have a young baby or toddler, you may try to give them a musical boost throughout their day through singing songs, playing music, attending a music class, or watching musical shows. Great! Music benefits children in many ways, especially if they get to interact with you, their parent. They learn about communicating with people, they learn how fun music-making is, and they develop musical ears. I love making music with my three-year-old daughter and my eighteen-month-old son every day! It is always a fun part of our day.
Blogger Lois Svard described a 2012 study about six-month-old babies and their parents in a baby music class. One group of babies and parents interacted with each other through an active music class, where together they learned lullabies and nursery rhymes, sang movement and action songs, and played with percussion instruments. The second group of babies attended a passive music class with their parents where they played interactive games while listening to background music.
The researchers found that the babies who were active participants in the musical experience had a higher acquisition of Western-tonality than the passive music listeners. In addition, the babies in the active group showed increased signs of early communication and social responses. Basically, the active musical classes helped babies increase their musical understanding and encouraged their communication and social development.
Today I am going to share some ideas to provide similar experiences with your children, focusing in on children from birth to about twenty-four months.
Interaction through Song
Listening to music is not enough to help your children receive the social and communication benefits that comes from interacting through song. Interactive singing should happen throughout the day, spontaneously or planned.
If you don’t think you are a very good singer, stop thinking that! Your child doesn’t care. Hearing your voice will not ruin their musical ears. If anything, they will learn that everyone can find joy through singing.
Make songs a part of your daily schedule. In our home, we sing a good morning song, during diaper changes, a religious song before breakfast, when we clean up, when we get into the car, when the kids get out of the bath, while brushing their teeth, and a lullaby before bed. You can sing a song that already exists and matches the theme of your activity, or you can change the words to a favorite song (my sister’s diaper-changing song is a Jack Johnson song, “It’s always more fun to have a nice clean bum…”)
Have a set “music time” with your children. My favorite time is after naptime, before Dad gets home—the witching hour. I roll out a colorful afghan, have a list of songs and rhymes (to give me ideas, and I add to it regularly), and a few percussion instruments nearby but out-of-sight. Remember that children love singing the same songs over and over.
My favorite website for songs and musical activities is Let’s Play Kids’ Music. Look in the archives for songs for babies or toddlers, nursery rhyme songs, seasonal songs, and so on. One of the most valuable tabs on the website is “Activities by Type,” where you will find songs that work well with rhythm and percussion, movement, literacy development, classical music, and a song directory.
Children won’t sit still while singing, so mix things up with actions, jumping, percussion instruments, swaying, clapping, and sitting quietly. I am always amazed at how quickly my 18-month-old son picks up the gross motor skills we include in the songs.
To easily incorporate movement, you can emphasize the beat of the song by marching, clapping, patsching (clapping on your lap), bouncing, tapping from shoulder to shoulder to knee to knee, swinging arms, rocking from side to side, or shaking hands. Make a note on your song list so that you can do the same action next time you sing the song.
Make simple percussion instruments. Egg shakers are made with plastic Easter eggs, rice or beans (explore the sounds of both!), and washi tape. A dowel cut into pieces makes rhythm sticks. And our favorite, ribbon wands made from ribbon scraps hot glued to a popsicle stick. Using these props makes any song more fun and helps your child learn about finding and keeping a beat.
Don’t forget to give your child your full attention while singing. If you are singing a song while doing the dishes—it isn’t an interactive musical experience! Your child may learn the song, but they won’t learn social and communication skills. Make eye contact, smile, hold hands, do actions!
Sign up for a music class if you have the resources and desire to. This may help if you have a hard time committing to music time if it isn’t a scheduled event. There are music classes for all ages of children. Sing the songs with your baby throughout the week. You will probably learn fun
music games to play with your baby!
Interaction through song is probably the most important thing you will do to help your baby or toddler gain those social and communication skills through music. It is fully active. Sing together every single day!
How do you (or plan to) incorporate active music making with your baby? Please share with me in the comments!
Are you a Suzuki Teacher? Subscribe to our teacher newsletter, and we will send you a weekly email with updates to the blog and our free parent education pdf, What Every Suzuki Parent Needs to Know, for you to use in your own studio.
This content is restricted to site members. If you are an existing user, please log in. New users may register below.