There's a phenomenon that happens when we become parents. Whether we carry a tune or not we most likely will sing to our new babies and children.
Most parents can relate to singing a lullaby at bedtime, singing to calm a sad child, or even making up songs on the spot to fit whatever happens to be going on. There are songs we sing to encourage cleaning up after playtime, songs about moods and songs to express love.
The amazing thing about this innate need to sing to our children is that it's extra beneficial for our kids, too. Researcher Sandra Trehub has studied the impact of singing on babies. In a recent article, she said, "Babies recognize the voice much, much earlier than they recognize a mother's face. Voice is a very powerful stimulus for an infant."
Parents with a fussy, upset, or even sleepy, child know how singing can calm the child down or help him or her get to sleep. In one study, Trehub and colleagues placed infants in a mildly stressful situation—no familiar people or other stimulus. Half the babies had singing to listen to, while the others had none. The infants with the singing stayed calm twice as long as the babies with no singing.
On occasions when my kids are scared at bedtime, I let them listen to soothing music. They relax (and stop coming out of bed again and again) and fall asleep more quickly than with any other technique I've attempted.
Turns out, our natural instinct to calm a child with music is spot on. Keep it up!
Music is a unique way of expressing emotions that might not otherwise be communicated. Whether there are lyrics or not, we can find music that fits our mood, or helps us get in a better mood. Music can set the tone of a day. Children can also learn to share their emotions through music.
My 4-year-old daughter was upset the other day because it's been really cold and snowy outside, and she wanted to wear her summer clothes. She began singing a melancholy tune with the words, "Why does it always have to be snowy and winter? It's never going to be summer." It was the saddest sounding song, complete with tears. But, that was her way of expressing her emotions.
We can also use music to discuss emotions and feelings with our children. Play different types of music and ask your children how it makes them feel. Happy? Sad? Excited? Scared? This can help them understand their own emotions.
We've all heard plenty of studies that link music to learning and improving memory. It's also helpful for social connections as well. This is also likely true for babies.
Before babies can talk, they do seem to make music; different sounds and pitches often communicate their happiness, sadness or other emotions. These little musical sounds help them to connect to adults (adults can understand these vocal cues) and strengthen the parent to child bond. Babies can also mimic sounds their parents make or respond to their parent's tone of voice. Additionally, babies recognize parents by the sound of their voice more often than their faces. The sound of your voice is important to your baby and his or her connection to you.
Our natural instinct to sing to our babies is spot on. Keep music a part of daily life in your family routines. Use it to calm the household, improve the overall mood, communicate effectively, and to strengthen the bond between you and your family.