The Pied Piper used music to merrily lead children from town. Mothers and fathers have sung their little ones to sleep for centuries. Teachers use a “clean-up” song to motivate children to put their belongings in their cubby. Many of today’s parents have learned that the most powerful tool to gain a child’s attention isn’t nagging or yelling: its music. Music and children just naturally go together like peanut butter and jelly!
Music and rhythm is in baby’s daily life, such as the swish-swish of the washing machine, the tiny cricket playing his “strings” on a summer night, or the tinkling of the patio wind chimes. It is in the soothing strains of a gentle lullaby in the nursery, a mother’s heartbeat and the soft humming from a dad who feels he can’t sing. Lullabies have the power to turn bedtime into an enchanted, magical world, weaving a spell over your child with its beautiful strains.
The Lasting Power of Lullabies
While a lullaby has a simple structure, restricted pitch range and a lot of repetition, its melody and harmony are just intricate enough to stimulate baby’s imagination. It sends an unspoken message of love and security, and does so in a way simple words cannot describe.
Lullabies have a style all their own. While babies respond better when a lullaby is sung by a parent, there is nothing wrong with mom or dad humming or singing along with a lullaby CD. The gentle strains of background accompaniment can introduce baby to musical instruments, while the parent’s soft voice and loving arms provide a calming and familiar feeling, soothing baby to sleep more easily. Lullabies provide a warm, nurturing environment that promotes a sense of well-being no matter where you are.
Lullabies form the earliest memories for children, and as adults we often remember the songs later in life. Many adults have said they don’t remember childhood songs, yet when they become a parent the distant melody suddenly pops out of them as they rock and sing to their own little one. While for most parents lullabies are instinctive, some parents do not recognize how music can truly affect and influence their child not only as an infant, but throughout their childhood.
Throughout the world, harmonious strains of music, gentle lyrics of song and relaxing rhythms of life create a strong bond between a parent and child. While a song may not cure everything in life, for a baby it definitely helps and it can serve as a conduit for your child’s growth and development when used from the beginning.
While the “Mozart Effect” has not been scientifically proven, there is no denying that there are many benefits to lullabies.
- Lullabies provide your baby emotional well-being
- Stimulates baby’s motor skills
- Begins language development
- Soothes and comforts crying babies
- Lullabies strengthen the bond between parent and child
Singing More, Means Nagging Less
Because music is like a story with a beginning, middle and end, children enjoy and easily respond to it quickly. If you hesitate to believe that it has the power to capture a child’s attention, start playing a piano or begin singing in a room of preschoolers noisily playing and you’ll change your mind that music and song has the power to capture a child’s attention. It is a powerful method of setting your child’s behavior or mood like no other tool available to parents and caregivers.
As your baby grows to toddlerhood, using songs can help reduce nagging and impatience. It is what experts commonly refer to as “musical speech,” better known as the “sing-song tone” which uses exaggerated pitch and rhythm. While you may feel silly doing it, taking a favorite tune and tweaking the lyrics will entice your toddler to become a much more willing participant to an activity or instruction. Your child accomplishes the task you wish them to do without a lot of fuss and muss.
A song such as “I Love Rock-n-roll,” can easily become your child’s “I love takin’ a bath” song. “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” can be changed to, “Annie come to dinner please.” Take a song with rhythm and make up your own words, add lots of rhyme, mix in a funny dance step or use hand motions, and you have a hit that motivates your child to concentrate and do the task at hand. You gain bonus points using rhymes and dancing!
Repetition and rhyme in many silly songs provide the perfect instrument for your child to learn numbers, letters, words and concepts. You can use singing to signal when it is time for a bath, bedtime, to put toys away, nap time, or routine events, such as going to church, dance lessons and other activities. Through song they can grasp concepts, such as getting dressed or simple manners. Teach your child short “manners jingles.” Hearing a child sing-song politely to ask for something they want, such as “may I have some milk now, please?” and “thank you oh so very much” to the tune of “London Bridge is Falling Down,” is much easier than hearing them whine or nag.
Songs can also be a most helpful distraction for infants, toddlers and preschoolers and encourage patience. Music and song, particularly action and silly songs, can help parents through doctor visits, car trips and long lines at the store. Singing a lullaby to a crying baby while in the car can help calm baby as well as you, and you may find you bring a smile and patience to others stuck in that long line!
How to Start
Begin by introducing lullabies to your newborn’s nursery. Don’t be afraid to make it a bedtime ritual! While baby doesn’t care if you can sing, if you feel uncomfortable singing without some type of “accompaniment” there are plenty of wonderful lullaby CD’s available to hum or sing-a-long with as you hold and rock baby.
There is nothing wrong with allowing lullabies to remain a bedtime ritual long after infancy. While the day will come when the lullabies are left behind for other songs and music, you will find curiosity in music evolving into another pattern that is just as valuable, such as music playing songs they enjoy while a doing homework or reading.
Lullabies and silly sing-a-long songs introduce children to the arts and language, inspiring creative expression and improvisation. It encourages interaction with others, enriching their communication, vocabulary and social skills. A child exposed to lullabies from the beginning has a head start on speech development, and children who sing, learn creativity and to express themselves freely. Songs are just one of the many building blocks to self-confidence, self-esteem, self-expression and self-control— all key ingredients to success in life.
There is little doubt that the beautiful strains of songs are a powerful catalyst for healing, learning, creativity and development. We have only just begun to scratch the surface to all the positive influences it has in a child’s growth and education. It produces a simple pleasure we can all enjoy, and is a wonderful tool to help you connect with your child.
Music has the power to stimulate, motivate, and captivate a child giving life to imagination. It gives us our soul, allows us to share our emotions and provides us the wings with which we can fly. From lullabies to looney tunes, Bach to Barney, the magic of music and singing has a hand in teaching children. So sing and share music with your child and do so often!
(c) February 2010 Catherine L Pittman All Rights Reserved
About the Author
Catherine currently resides in Oregon, and is the owner, songwriter and main vocalist for the music production company, Pitter Patter Productions. The company has been producing its own line of original award-winning music for children since 1992, specializing in lullabies and music for toddlers and preschoolers. MP3 downloads of our songs and albums are available at Amazon.com, CD Baby and iTunes. CD’s are available at: http://www.pitterpatterproductions.com
Parents: Receive a FREE sampler album download when subscribing to our e-magazine, Parent Patter Magazine. The sampler album includes songs from all of our current and soon to be released albums. Subscribe at: http://www.pitterpatterproductions.com/ParentPatter.html
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