Even in the womb, music can help build an emotional connection between you and your child. As your baby grew inside you, they became used to your voice, and you might even have sung to your unborn child or played soothing music.
Now that your baby is here, music play presents even more opportunities for emotional connection. It also fosters your baby's auditory, listening, understanding and physical development.
Babies respond to the human voice more than any other sound. They show they are listening by turning their head to familiar sounds, especially their mother's voice. Vocal play provides your baby with mental stimulation and is a fun way to help them develop early language.
Babies learn through imitation. If you regularly sing to your child, they'll soon try to imitate your voice and join in! At first they may gurgle to show their enjoyment, then babble as they attempt to make their first speech-like sounds.
By singing a variety of songs to your baby, you'll teach them to understand the rise and fall of sounds – the concepts of loud and soft tones; high and low pitches; and short and long notes.
Put together a repertoire of songs that use rhyme and repetition, because babies thrive on familiarity. This has the added benefit of helping to develop their memory. Work these songs into your child's routine – for example, a lullaby can signal bedtime for a younger baby, or try a 'pack away the toys' song with an older baby.
Hands-on music play with instruments is not only stimulating but a great way to enhance your baby's fine motor skills. They'll also love exploring the variety of sounds they can make on their own, which in turn fosters their sense of independence.
Make up a basket of baby-friendly instruments for music playtime. Suggestions include a xylophone; cage bells; egg-shaped shakers; home-made shakers (a plastic container filled with dried pasta and permanently sealed) and tambourines. Older babies will enjoy the classic saucepan and wooden spoon combination, as well as music activity centres they can operate independently. And don't forget body percussion – babies love to clap and tap their bodies!
Physical music play
Music play can also assist with gross motor skill development. You can introduce the concept of dance to your newborn by simply swaying and rocking to music. As your baby grows, they can start to feel beat and rhythm as you bounce them on your knee, or as they bob up and down in time to music.
Vary the pace of the music you choose, from fast-paced pieces that your baby can bop and clap along with, to slower-paced pieces that they can sway and swirl a scarf to.
Social music play
Music play is an excellent opportunity for social interaction with other children. Get together with a few other mums and their bubs for a singalong or jam session. Ask each person to bring a different instrument, pop on some tunes and enjoy singing along and making music together. There are many baby music classes on offer, too.
There are many ways you can give your baby a musical head start!