Infants can learn to sing before they learn to speak. By encouraging music in your pre-verbal infant, affirmation and communication can be promoted in a way that pre-reasoning minds are able to understand.
Here are 3 simple ways that any parent (whether or not they consider themselves musical) can grow music in their new child.
1. Sing back the notes that your infant coos to you.
The first sounds that infants make are pitched notes. While these are real notes that could be found on an instrument, you don't even have to know what the notes' names are in order to sing them back to your child. When your little one coos "ah, ah, ah," listen them out until they're finished, then sing it right back to them. Sing the same pitch(es) they sang, with the same rhythm (timing), on the same vowel sound. Not only does this affirm to your infant that you are listening carefully to what they have to say, but it also builds confidence that what they said was valuable. Most of all, it creates awareness that music exists and that music exists inside of them. As a music teacher, I can testify to the fact that much of my job is about convincing students of this fact. Imagine, though, on the contrary, what musical journeys the next generation can experience if they grow up knowing they are musical. The musicality of every human being is a truth. It is each parents' responsibility to simply keep mental roadblocks from obscuring this truth.
2. Have a short song for every activity you and your infant engage in together.
By turning ordinary, everyday experiences into a smiling song, children's worldviews develop with the assurance that life is good.
Try to be as consistent as possible with singing a specific song every time you do an activity. It does take some focus, but as much consistency as you are able to put into it, you and your child will reap back the results. It's also important to have the melody be the same each time because that signals recognition, and recognition signals security which signals peace and joy.
The good news is that you ARE musical enough for this task. Even if you haven't sung much in your life before, singing to your baby seems to be one of those skills that comes out of nowhere -- simply through the act of becoming a parent. The melodies you come up with can be "silly," but they belong to you and your child alone, and that's what makes them wonderful. If you're like me and you find difficulty remembering the tunes you make up, try using a voice recorder to help you remember. Here are some short rhymes for everyday activities to get you started:
-"We put the socks on toes; that is how it goes, put the socks on toes!"
-"Listen to the crunchy pants; come on, do the diaper dance!"
-"Oh, what yummy food, oh, what tasty tastes -- chew and chew and chew, so no food goes to waste."
-"Is there poo inside of you?"
-"In the bath we splash, we splash!"
-"We rub the toes, we rub the feet; we scrub the legs, we scrub the knees. We rub the back, we rub the neck; we scrub the arms, we scrub the chest."
-"Crawl, crawl, crawl, one and all!"
-"Let's clip, clip, clip, clip the nail on your fingertip. Oh, oh, oh, oh, [nine] more to go..."
-"We're going back in the car seat, going for a ride; where will we go, will it be a surprise?"
-"Walk and talk, let's go walking while talking!"
-"Time to climb, time to climb, how high can you climb?"
-"Kisses and zoobers, let's wipe up the goobers!"
-"Meeting new faces, going new places..."
-"Going up the stairs" (sing an ascending scale)
-"Going down the stairs" (sing a descending scale)
-"What do you think? Is it time for a drink?"
3. Place an instrument in every room and have supervised exploration time daily.
It is naturally built into infants to be fascinated with objects that make sounds. At a very early age they will be able to recognize what a musical instrument looks like and reach for it. My daughter was first starting to identity instruments on her own at three weeks, and now at seven months she shouts delightedly when she sees one! When we sit at the piano together, she bangs both hands on the keys in rhythm with my playing. All I do from day to day is make sure we try out an instrument when we see one.
By gently exploring instruments with your little one, their worldview forms that music is normal and it is a joy. If they are told "no" when they want to touch an instrument, it causes them, at a very deep subconscious level, to fear instruments. (And then we wonder why piano lessons are such a dread at age 7!)
Instruments look lovely to have around and are easier to acquire than it may seem. They are designed logically where new minds will pick up fundamentals about them through frequent exposure. For instance, it goes a long way toward future study of an instrument if a child already knows that smaller strings and smaller distances make for higher notes.
You do not even have to have special instruments designed for little children. As long as you are exploring the instrument with your child, it can be safe for the instrument. Your excitement will make it extra exciting for the child on top of the fact that it's rewarding to hit, blow, or pluck something and it creates a sweet sound. Parents can learn any instrument right alongside their child and then no one has an excuse for NOT enjoying the making of music.
Do you and your infant have a special way of bonding through music? Share your stories in the comments below! And please pass along this article with the goal for the next generation to more clearly experience the joy of music.
An accomplished performer on over 20 instruments, Danika finds the greatest joy by sharing her love of music with others. She is a recording artist and trusted music mentor who writes and composes from her California country home.