Listening to music with your baby

Babies are born with a natural ability to appreciate music - and early exposure to music can have a profound effect on their learning development.

Mother and smiling baby

Introduction

Listening to music can have a significant impact on the way your child will learn. It appears that music plays a crucial role in ‘wiring’ your baby’s brain for learning.

Early music exposure can help promote critical listening skills, language and literacy, creativity and coordination. Listening to music will help teach your infant about patterns and sequence, and about rhythm, beat and tone which are useful for problem-solving and reasoning. Research has shown us that children with a strong sense of beat are more likely to read well and do better at maths.

Listening to music helps put babies and toddlers into a relaxed and receptive state, which is perfect for when you would like to try a new activity with them. Music also has the ability to raise your child’s self-confidence and self-esteem and can become a form of expression for your baby when they can’t yet talk.

Listening to music together is a cheap and easy activity – and it can be a wonderful, bonding experience for you and your baby to share.

How CBeebies can help

CBeebies has lots of wonderful songs and rhymes that are perfectly suited to a music session with your child.

For young babies, try picking lullabies or nursery rhymes which are short, simple, soothing and melodic. Why not sing some of the ‘In The Night Garden’ songs to your child? They are perfect for babies. Or you could click through to the Teletubbies pages on the CBeebies website and take a look at the nurseey rhymes featured in the Story Time section.

If older babies and young toddlers, you could try listening to some songs that encourage your child to move and groove – e.g. ‘Copy Me’ by the Tweenies and Bob the Builder’s ‘Big Fish Music Video’ (be warned - it’s extremely catchy so you’ll probably find yourself dancing and singing along too!). Oh, and you could try joining in with the very silly and very funny Number Raps (as performed by Andy and Sid). Click through to the Presenters section of the website and select ‘Song Time’.

How to make a magic moment

Young babies

Pick a time when you won’t be interrupted. As you play the music, cradle your baby, look into their eyes and gently rock or sway from side to side. You could try singing or humming along to the lyrics. Observe your baby. What do you notice? Is your baby wriggling or moving? Are they making any noises? Do they seem to be enjoying the music? Do they prefer one song to another? This is a wonderful opportunity to truly connect with your baby. Babies who are distressed or tired will especially enjoy this special moment together.

Older babies and young toddlers

Why not try a music session that involves dance to make it a fun and exciting experience for your little one? Try to let your child take the lead. Copy their dance moves and if they sing, you sing! If your child seems unsure, try being creative yourself. The sillier you are, the funnier your child will find it and the more likely they will be to join in. This kind of session is a brilliant introduction to moving to the beat and rhythm of music. Whatever you do, be sure to clap and cheer at your child’s creative attempts.

by Karen Emery

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Top tips

  • Expose your baby to a wide range of music from classical to pop, rock, jazz and folk! The more varied in the early years, the better.Not too loud! Remember that a young child’s ears are very sensitive to noise. To prevent any damage turn the music down.Avoid background noise. Research shows that young children who spend long periods of time in an environment where TV/background music is played continuously,   have a tendency to ‘switch off’ their listening skills. Instead enjoy a more focused music time together.Personalise lullabies and nursery rhymes - make up a new verse or change the lyrics of well- known songs, e.g. by inserting your baby’s name into the song or using words your baby is familiar with.Use music as a way to soothe and calm your infant - this is especially useful during a baby massage or at bedtime.

Expert opinion

Activities and games involving music are not only highly enjoyable, but can also be beneficial for child development, in areas such as reading, mathematics and science, as well as social and personal development.

Robin Lever, Composer and musician