Every so often you’ll see a buzz around playing music for babies and headlines screaming that listening to Mozart can improve your child’s IQ. While it is debatable if music can turn you or your baby into a genius, there are positive effects of introducing music to babies and toddlers.
Benefits of understanding rhythm and music
For babies who are just discovering and exploring the world around them, music can improve brain function. Some research shows that listening to music early can help with developing neuroplasticity which refers to the brain’s ability to form new connections and learn from experiences.
Listening to music can help with your child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development as they learn to hum or sing with others around them. Moving rhythmically to music can also help physical development in babies, strengthening arm and leg muscles. Playing an instrument – even just a toy – helps them develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
And just like adults, listening to music or humming along to favorite songs can calm babies and improve their mental well-being. It can help them identify their emotions and learn to self-regulate.
Introducing music to babies
So how do you start introducing music to your child? What age is appropriate to start? Should you be out there searching for baby-friendly music? If you have questions, you’ve come to the right place for answers.
Fun fact: babies develop their hearing quite early, much earlier than their visual senses. While newborns may not appreciate classical music, even babies as young as 2 – 3 months can focus on your voice when you sing or hum melodies to them. There’s no ‘right’ age for you to start singing lullabies to them!
As for kid-friendly music, almost any music that you enjoy can be kid-friendly. Whether you sing songs, hum along to the music, or play an instrument, the words really don’t matter. It’s the rhythm and music itself that young babies appreciate.
Sing to your child often
Many parents hesitate to sing to their baby because they don’t have a ‘good’ singing voice or their inability to sing in key. Trust us, your baby does not care. Babies love listening to the soothing voice of a loving parent, especially if you rock them to the beat as you sing.
Before musical toys and baby-sized musical instruments hit the scene, parents entertained children with the sound of their voices. Years later, some of your child’s earliest memories might be of dad singing off-key as they tucked them into bed.
Most babies spend a lot of time on their back in the crib. A mobile that plays soft music above their crib or their favorite bouncy chair is a great way to get them listening to music. Encourage them to mimic the noise by repeating it and applaud their efforts. Make sure to hand it above their reach (cord safety!) and remove them once they start reaching for/grabbing it with their hands.
Once your baby starts to roll over and grab things, it’s time to move on to musical toys. Battery-powered toys are all very nice but consider using interactive toys that need them to do something to make the noise/music. Toys that they can shake to hear rattling, press to hear squeaky noises or stuff that crinkles are all attractive to babies.
Start by showing them how to make noise with each toy and then wait for them to mimic your actions. Shake the rattle, tap on a drum, etc., and watch for their response. Pretty soon, you’ll be ‘talking’ to them with music.
For a more budget-friendly option, make your own musical toys. Pots and pans make wonderful drums when paired with wooden spoons. Empty ice cream cartons and different plastic containers help them make new sounds. Fill a child-proof container with rice or beans for a homemade rattle.
Try to sing songs that emphasize hand gestures or other body movements like jumping around. Tunes with a lot of repetitive actions, clapping, making odd noises will encourage your child to move their body in time to the music. Music does not have to be a passive experience. The more interaction and dancing, the better!
Toddlers love making music, even if the adults hear only noise! Help them explore the world of music with interactive instruments like drums, xylophones, tambourines, and ukuleles. You don’t need fancy ones either, child-size versions from wood and plastic work just as well at this age.
If your child shows an aptitude or interest in the instrument, you can also sign them up for music lessons. It introduces a social aspect as well. They can play along with other kids and learn from older ones too. If there are several children around the same age around, they can even start their own neighborhood band!