I never realised how many nursery rhymes I didn’t know until I became a parent. Now, though, as the proud owner of a two-year-old, I have a whole library of lullabies, nursery rhymes, and other songs whirling around my brain. As a new parent, I learned (and re-learned) many songs at local baby groups. Although the songs have changed – ‘Brahms Lullaby’ cruelly pushed aside by ‘Let it go’ and ‘Baby Shark’ (doo doo doo doo doo doo) – my little girl’s love of music continues to grow. This week alone, she came home from nursery singing three new songs; songs that I frantically had to YouTube so that I can perform them on demand.
As babies, toddlers, and even beyond, music has a profound impact on our children’s development. To find out more, I chat to Laura Barker, self-professed music lover and owner of Rhythm Time Newcastle, provider of multi-sensory music classes for babies and toddlers.
Hi, Laura! So, let’s start with how music and songs benefit babies…
Your baby has been listening to your voice since they were in the womb. If you ever tried singing to your bump, or had a sing along to the radio in your car, you’ll probably have noticed that your baby started moving more. That’s because they love to hear you sing. Even if you don’t think that you can sing or if you think you have a terrible voice, your baby will love your voice as it is so familiar to them.
Singing is a great way to communicate with your baby, and prepares their little ears, voice and brain for language. As well as boosting development, music and singing can help to boost your baby’s health, stimulate their senses, and promote neural connections in the brain. It also helps with bonding and the development of reciprocal communication.
Amazing! Are there any particular songs or pieces of music that you would recommend?
Well, simple tunes like ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’ and ‘Baa baa black sheep’ were always very popular choices in my house when my children were little babies. Now they are a bit older, I hear countless renditions of ‘The wheels on he bus’ and my little boy has even started to make up his own little songs as he plays with his toys!
For babies, the best advice is to keep the music and the songs simple. Nursery rhymes and lullabies sang unaccompanied help your little one to learn how language is constructed; they also carry signature melodies and inflections of our mother tongue, offering a special – yet very powerful – type of speech for young brains.
Repetition is very important for babies, and plays a huge role in their learning. Much as it may drive you mad sometimes, singing the same song every day – sometimes multiple times a day – can help your child feel secure and even more loved!
And what about older children; how does music benefit them?
Music is a wonderful tool, and benefits children of all ages (and even adults). Young babies find the repetitive words and melodies of nursery rhymes and childhood songs soothing and, as they grow into toddlers, these songs provide a familiar and reassuring cue. It’s for this reason – among others, of course – that songs and music play such an important role in nursery, pre-school and even school settings; it’s also why songs are even used in swimming environments where they provide a welcome distraction for little ones who are anxious about going in the water.
For children of all ages, music can accelerate brain development, particularly in the areas of language acquisition and reading skills. Add in a bit of dancing, too, and your child is building their motor skills and practicing self-expression. Of course, one of the other benefits that music brings – and the reason why, even as adults, it plays such an important role in our day-to-day lives – is a real feeling of joy. Just think about how you feel when your favourite song comes on the radio as your driving back from work… I love it!
Thanks, Laura. Really interesting stuff! If you’d like to find out more about Rhythm Time Newcastle, head over to their Facebook page where you can find all the latest news and class timetables from Laura and her team. You can also reach her at [email protected] or by visiting www.rhythmtime.net/ba4.
Written by Emma at Nemo Swimming