The infant you hold in your hand is continually growing and developing. She is adapting to the environment and music helps make that transition a smooth one. From the time a baby is inside the womb, she has been hearing all sorts of sounds and the mum may have even made her intentionally listen to music. Continuing to expose her to music after birth aids in her development and also becomes a natural bonding moment for parent and child.
While an infant may not be ready to dance around to music or play with a xylophone, she is definitely going to enjoy being lulled to sleep. The familiar voice of her mother as she sings a tune will be like a balm that soothes the child.
The benefits of music
Listening to and playing music has been known to improve the cognitive skills of babies. Neuroscientists have seen how music makes a difference on the brain of babies. A study from the Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences shows that there is a significant change in the auditory and prefrontal cortexes of the brain after listening to music. These are the regions where both music and speech are processed. The brain activities of nine-month-old babies showed improvement after a series of play sessions with music.
Another study by the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California shows that early exposure to music hastens language acquisition. This could be because children learn the sounds and meanings of words as they listen to songs. Some experts also argue that learning to play an instrument directly correlates to improved mathematical skills. Overall skills for school readiness are significantly helped when a child has a lot of musical experiences.
How music promotes growth in the different domains
Being intentional about integrating music to your child’s daily routine is a step towards stimulating development. Consider what you want your child to learn through various musical experiences and how you can best structure those. Be sure to include all areas of development for a holistic approach.
Gross and fine motor skills are the first thing that comes to mind when we speak of physical development. A child who regularly listens to music and observes an adult move to the tune will eventually do the same thing. She might raise her arms or kick in response to a familiar rhythm. An older infant will practice grasping and controlling a stick or spoon at hand to beat a drum. Finger play songs are also excellent mediums for young children to develop fine motor control.
Social and emotional skills
Music is a shared experience. As a young child grows familiar with a particular song, she finds a way to relate to the other children and adults in her life. This becomes a point of connection that further establishes her bond with the significant people in her life.
Music is also a powerful tool that can convey and elicit emotions. The soothing effect of lullabies on young children shows that they are able to distinguish and respond to familiar melodies. Establishing a routine can become easier if music is utilized. A song can mark the beginning of rest time or you can also sing a melody that signifies feeding time. The predictability of activities gives your child added security.
As they grow with music in the background, children are better able to express themselves. They can produce loud sounds to mimic the banging of drums when they want to get attention. They may coo or produce softer sounds when you cuddle or play with them to signify enjoyment.
The rhythmic pattern of music is foundational to many thinking skills that a child will need to develop as she matures. The mere repetition of song lyrics makes it easier for most children to remember concepts. Even if they are not able to verbalize yet, the words can be retained in their minds if they frequently hear them. Introduce songs that tell a story so that your child will appreciate sequences as the ideas progress.
Listening to vs. playing music
It is a proven fact that listening to music improves an infant’s brain functioning. But even more powerful is when the little one begins to play music. This is because her motor skills get involved and refined in the process. When she drops or squeezes a toy, this unlocks a whole new set of abilities that she will explore as she discovers the effect of her movements. Tapping into these skills creates neural connections between the two brain hemispheres. The left hemisphere controls speech, comprehension and writing while the right controls creativity and musical skills among others.
How to encourage musical play
Sing and dance to music. Carry the child and let her feel as you move to the music. This will create an awareness of her own ability to move her arms and legs and even her entire body as she listens to the beat.
Provide musical toys. Playing with maracas or stuffed toys that produce a sound when squeezed will help the child understand cause and effect relationships. With repetition, she will associate her actions to the sound produced.
Have a musical mobile in place. A mobile of attractive toys that moves to music will definitely catch the attention of your infant. This will stimulate both her hearing and vision and might even keep her interested for quite some time.
When children enjoy an activity, they are better able to learn and absorb ideas. Music can be that added factor that makes a simple routine more exciting. Stimulate your child’s development by using music at the earliest stage possible.