The Importance of Singing, Music and Rhyme

In this article you will learn:

  • Why exposing your baby to music is good for them
  • How babies respond to singing and nursery rhymes

Sharing music with your baby

Once born, most babies love to listen to music. They will find certain types of rhythm soothing and comforting, particularly music that reminds them of the sound of a resting heartbeat. This is because, long before birth, babies continually feel the rhythm and hear the sounds from their mother’s body, and a couple of months before birth they can also hear the sounds from the outside world, especially the tone of their mother’s voice.

Without necessarily realizing it, music can affect us in many ways. So often a piece of music or a particular song will conjure up an image, or remind us of a particular time or event that has happened in the past. With the image or memory, we often have a particular feeling come over us, which may make us feel excited or calm, happy or sometimes sad. Music can even affect our breathing and heart rate. The effect music can have on an individual is related to the key in which it is arranged.

 

Insight

In music, the keys F and C are considered to be particularly peaceful and can have a calming effect on babies, children and adults.

Music is actually very similar to language, as they are both processed in the same areas of the brain and can contribute to overall brain development. For both music and language to be understood, they require an element of organization, structure, rhythm and a sense of timing; and both have various sound frequencies that make them interesting and gives them intonation and melody.

Using nursery rhymes with your baby during yoga and massage

It is the rhythmical aspect of both music and speech that babies may find soothing and comforting. This is why babies enjoy listening to rhymes that are sung, or spoken in a softer, slower and a higher than normal pitched voice. Some parents struggle with ‘chatting’ to their baby, but find that sometimes talking can be replaced with nursery rhymes that they feel more comfortable using. Babies seem ready to tune in to rhymes sung by their parents and tend to respond enthusiastically to this form of communication. They are able to follow simple rhythms long before they are able to speak.

The massage and yoga sessions will give you the perfect opportunity to introduce some rhymes to your baby. These will help to keep your baby focused on you, as well as giving you both time to share some special moments. You will probably End that your baby will begin to imitate the sounds they hear you make while you are singing. When babies do this, it is as if they are chatting or singing along, in their own way. When taking time to sing rhymes and songs to your baby, you will be giving them the opportunity to begin to learn about listening, joining in and the art of turn-taking during a conversation.

 

Insight

Good speakers and listeners are on the path to becoming great readers and writers.

When you have the opportunity to recite rhymes, your baby will be listening to the sounds and the words. When singing to your baby is coupled with an interesting and enjoyable activity, such as massage or yoga, they are more likely to start to understand the meaning behind the words. For example, your baby will not understand the question ‘Would you like a massage today?’ However, when accompanied with the gentle stroking on the chest, they will, if massaged regularly, soon come to associate the words with the action and understand that massage is being offered.
Insight

At only four months old, a baby is capable of responding to every type of sound produced by every language in the world. By ten months old they are able to distinguish sounds from their own language (or languages) and are able to start making some sounds at this early age too.

Tuning in to variations in the voice

From about two months of age, a baby is able to process and respond to emotional and tonal variation within a person’s voice.

How rhymes are sung is important to how well a baby will respond to or appreciate them. For instance, a flat or monotone voice will not attract a baby to the singer, but a soft, higher than usual pitched voice will be more attractive for a baby and easier for them to respond to. The impact is greater if the important words or sounds are stressed and if the rhyme is repeated regularly.

As the voice goes up an octave or so, the developing brain responds by sending a greater number of chemical and electrical impulses along the newly developing neural pathways. This is an indicator as to how important singing to a baby really is. Which is further enhanced when coupled with play-time which massage and yoga time can be considered to be.

 

Insight

To see how your baby responds to the variation in your voice, try saying the following nursery rhyme in a flat monotone voice. Then sing the same rhyme in a high pitched, rhythmical voice, stressing the word ‘POP’.

Half a pound of tuppenny rice
Half a pound of treacle
Mix it up and make it nice
POP! goes the weasel

As well as being quite a joyful, comforting and fun experience for you and your baby, repeating nursery rhymes so that your baby becomes familiar with them, can actually help with their cognitive development.
Insight

A baby to whom nursery rhymes are sung is more likely to develop a strong sense of well-being as they grow.

Listening to your baby

Massage and yoga will give you the opportunity to really watch and listen to your baby, giving you the chance to learn how they communicate with you. The sounds and little noises that babies make are more structured and controlled than is immediately obvious. But, if you take time to listen to your baby and enter into a ‘conversation’ with them, you will soon be able to recognize that your baby responds to your voice in a timed and specific manner.

 

Insight

A baby that is listened to, as well as sung to, is more likely to feel calm, respected and loved.

Babies have a definite musical ability when communicating with their parents – the sounds they utter are in a timed, melodic sequence; and you might even notice that your baby will try to draw you into a ‘conversation’ themselves. If you do not respond to their first ‘call’ they will wait an exact, specific length of time, before each subsequent call trying to get your attention again. If you enter into a ‘conversation’ with your baby, you will notice that they pause for the same amount of time after each time you have spoken before they reply as if they are politely waiting a few seconds, just to check that you have finished what you were saying!

 

Insight

When you have the opportunity to have a quiet moment with your baby and they are awake and alert, try having a ‘conversation’ with them. Simply say ‘Hel – lo’ in a quiet sing-song voice. Wait and listen for their response to your ‘call’. Notice the length of time between your calls and their replies while you are chatting together.

Thing to remember

  • Music
    • Contributes to brain development
    • Improves verbal memory
    • Acts as a springboard for other skills to be developed
    • Is a powerful tool for supporting learning
  • Singing
    • Improves sound and rhythm recognition
    • Can help the development of speech and later, written language
    • Links sound and visual images that are essential for reading and writing skills
  • Rhyme
    • Is something babies respond positively to
    • Means that babies soon become familiar with repeated verse