Have you heard that listening to music can benefit your baby in a number of ways? Do you relish the idea of sharing your love of music with the newest love in your life?
As with so many things in pregnancy and motherhood, there are benefits and drawbacks to almost anything we do. If you want to introduce music safely, but aren’t sure when to do it and what kind to play, keep reading this article.
We have all the answers you’ll need to have everyone in your household safely tapping their toes.
Music in the Womb/Pregnancy
Will playing music in the womb to your baby help them in any way? Not according to what scientists know so far. At this point, the science is unclear about what impact playing music can have on the development of your baby in the womb.
If you’ve heard that playing music in the womb will make your baby smarter, you can relax. Those studies weren’t aimed at fetuses — they were focused on babies and older children.
When I was pregnant, I went to a movie theater to watch the latest action flick I had been dying to see. Certain parts of the movie were really loud, even to my ears. When the action started and the volume increased, I could actually feel my baby moving like crazy — as if the noise was irritating or startling her.
I felt bad after that and spent a lot of the movie trying to muffle the noise by placing my purse over my belly.
It’s not my imagination babies find loud noise jarring. Sounds of more than 65 decibels can startle your baby (1).
It could also be irritating to you too. So don’t feel like you have to crank up the stereo to make the volume of the music reach your baby’s ears.
If you find heavy metal music relaxing, then play it — although at a sensible volume. If belting out show tunes in your shower is more your cup of tea, go for it. Pregnancy is stressful, and music can be a great source of relaxation.
Music for Babies/Infants
Newborns and babies are big fans of music, especially if the music is part of a routine — like being rocked to sleep at night. While music, in general, is good, try to sing to your baby so they can get interaction along with their mental stimulation.
The Benefits of Music for Babies
They like music, and it’s good for them at this age. Some of the benefits of playing music to your baby include:
- Speech recognition and development: Before they can comprehend words, infants can understand musical patterns. It gives them the practice they need to eventually understand speech (2).
- Communication skills: By watching your facial expressions as you sing to them, your baby will learn more about the art of communication. It will watch your face change expressions while you’re communicating the words of the song.
- Emotions: The different sounds you make while singing will help a child learn about their own emotions and how to begin regulating them. Mastering their emotions is a big part of their development.
- It helps preemies: Some studies have shown that lullabies and live music can improve a preemie’s vital signs, which makes it a good way for parents to spend their time. Often as a parent of a preemie, you can feel helpless at times, but this is one way for you to fight that feeling.
- Cognitive skills: Counting and memory are just two of the ways that music helps babies. Even babies who are just 8 months old can recognize parts of a song just a couple weeks after it has been introduced to them (3).
- It reduces stress: There’s a reason music is so calming to babies — it can reduce their stress. The sounds of a song, especially a familiar one, can be soothing to babies. Making lullabies or music a regular part of a bedtime routine, for instance, will help them wind down.
- They’ll get better shut-eye: Babies who are sung to by their parents get better sleep, according to some research (4).
- It develops fine motor skills: Children, even when they are under the age of 1, are drawn to instruments. Whether it’s a makeshift drum or a few musical keys on one of their toys, babies love to try their hand at playing their own music. And it’s good for them too — it can help them develop hand-eye coordination and other fine motor skills.
There aren’t a lot of drawbacks to music time for children. One thing to watch out for is how loud the music is — you need to protect your baby’s delicate ears. That’s not a concern if you’re singing lullabies to your baby, but if you play music from your stereo, you should keep it down pretty low.
The other thing to note is that babies shouldn’t listen to music all the time. They need some quiet time as well when they aren’t being introduced to anything (5).
8 Tips for Introducing Music to Babies
Getting your baby interested in music shouldn’t be difficult. But in case you are running short on ideas as to how you can help your baby explore its love of music and get the most out of it, here are some tips.
- Let them join in: When you’re singing along with your baby, occasionally pause to give them a chance to try to sing along (6).
- Incorporate instruments whenever you can: Whether it’s a baby piano with four buttons or even just a variety of rattles with different sounds, encourage your baby to shake or touch the instrument and see what happens. Show them how the instruments work by playing them yourself.
- Make sure to add in music at bedtime: This is a natural time to get your baby to enjoy some soft music — it will be calming for the both of you. It’s a great way to wind down for the night by making sure you sing to your child and get plenty of snuggles.
- Introduce a variety of music: While lullabies are great, don’t forget to play your baby some upbeat music sometimes during the day. They’ll like hearing new songs as well as their favorites.
- Throw some rhymes in there: Babies notice rhymes just as much as they do the rhythm of a song. A good way to introduce rhymes is by singing your favorite nursery rhyme.
- Watch their reaction: Look for cues about how your baby is enjoying any new music you introduce them to. Do they smile or seem to be intently, concentrating on what they are hearing? Do they seem less than pleased with your song selection?
- Interact: Make sure you’re interacting with your baby while the music is playing. Half the fun of introducing songs to your baby is seeing their reaction and getting to bond with them in that moment. Don’t be so busy with your everyday chores and duties that you miss this special time.
- Let your movements capture their attention: Music gives us the perfect background to act silly. So march around the room in a highly-exaggerated motion, clap your hands, and snap your fingers.Your baby will get a kick out of the music and your goofiness.
Finding songs your baby will love should be easy. They’ll like almost anything you play, particularly if you’re enjoying it too or you know all the words to sing along with.
Here are five great songs well suited for your baby — it’s a good variety of fun songs and gentle, soothing ones. Some are older, traditional favorites, but there are a couple of newer ones sprinkled in, just in case you’re too tired of the classics.
Playlist for Babies
The Wheels on the Bus
If Sharks Are Happy
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Hush Little Baby
The Tale of the Sun and Moon
If you’re so tired of children’s songs, you might want to listen to something you’d like to hear too. So here are some popular music picks you’ll both enjoy. Some are slow, and some are more upbeat, so you’ll have a good mix for bedtime and playtime.
Playlist for Parents
Hey, Hey We’re the Monkees
Music for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers are more able to show their love of music than babies. You’ll see them laugh and sing along to their favorite songs. And, best of all, you’ll see them break out the dance moves too.
Many of your child’s favorite songs at this age will be ones they’ve heard on their favorite television shows. Because they love them, you’d better be prepared to hear them repeatedly. And by repeatedly, I mean multiple times a day.
If hearing that same old song for the millionth time starts to annoy you, just remember this phase will soon be gone and you’ll fondly remember their favorite songs from this age.
Plus, hearing the same songs repeatedly is easier to take when you see the benefits your child reaps from them.
The Benefits of Music for Toddlers
- Exercising motor skills: Dancing along to music helps your child build their gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are the ones that let your child move larger muscles, like their arms and legs.
- Coordination: If you want your child to excel at sports, introduce music and dancing. Busting a move will improve their coordination and balance.
- Mood lifter: Have you ever been in a bad mood and cranked some music to help uplift or motivate you? Your child will feel the same. They may not be able to tell you how music makes them feel, but you will see the change come over their faces when their songs are playing.
- Helps parents bond with children: An afternoon or evening of playing music together, laughing at the lyrics, or dancing around the room builds a bond between parents and kids. You need those small moments like that where you’re just enjoying each other’s company. It helps you forge a tight and long-lasting relationship.
- Can help build routines and habits: Kids thrive on habits and routines — it’s good for them to know what’s coming next. It gives them a sense of stability. Even if they don’t always embrace their nightly bedtime and the lullabies associated with it, you can rest assured it’s good for you to stay firm about it.
- Vocabulary development: Children can learn new words from songs or, if they’ve heard the words before, songs can help them understand the meaning of the words.
- Tradition: All children like to have a sense of belonging and music is one way to impart tradition. Is there a song your mother used to sing to you? Tell your child that before you sing it to them and watch them pay close attention to that song.
- Teaches empathy: Empathy is important when it comes to reading how other people are feeling — it can make us a better friend to those around us. Some studies have shown that exploring music with other people makes us more empathetic (7).
- Helps with sensory development: Things, like feeling different textures and tasting various foods, helps with sensory development, but so does music (8).
- Literacy and numeracy: If you sing nursery rhymes to your child, they’ll be better at figuring out sound patterns and configuring those patterns into a sequence. That helps them develop literacy and numeracy skills.
- Improving math ability: Children involved with music, such as lessons with an instructor where they are playing an instrument, generally score higher on math tests (9). While formal instruction at this age may be pushing it, you can let them watch others play instruments. It might spark the desire to do so themselves someday.
Ideas for Introducing Music to Toddlers/Preschoolers
Children naturally love music and are drawn to it. But there are things you can do to foster that love and watch it grow. Let’s look at some tips that might help you spur on your child’s love for music.
- Incorporate movement: Listening to songs is great, but adding some clapping, foot tapping or marching increases the level of fun and interest for a child. Remember playing Ring Around the Rosie when you were a kid? The best part about that song was the part where you got to fall down.
- Bring in some props: Children at this age have a rich imagination. You should let it roam wild by bringing in some props when you’re singing a song. You can add stuffed animals, pillows, or anything else you think of (10).
- Bring in the instruments: Babies enjoy their scaled-down toy versions of instruments like rattles and little pianos with three or four keys. Toddlers are ready for more. Give them a makeshift drum or a kazoo as a gift to blow into.
- Be patient: Kids of this age are going to want to hear their favorite songs repeatedly, so let them. The repetition is good because it assists with the learning process you’re going through.
- Don’t expect too much: If you know all about how music can make your child smarter, it can be tempting to jump right in, but don’t pressure them to take on too much too soon. Formal instrument lessons and expecting them to pick right up on the basics is unrealistic. Remember your job as their parent is to encourage, not pressure.
- Don’t worry about your voice: If you’re singing to your child, you don’t have to be Ariana Grande. Your child won’t be judging the quality of your voice. You’re already perfect to them just the way you are — so go ahead and give it your best vocal performance whether it’s silly or spectacular.
- Put on some bells while you dance: Your child will love trying to ring their bell simply by moving a body part (11). This is a fun activity to help them get the beat of the music they’re listening to.
- Make it consistent: If you want your child to be interested in music and get the benefits from it, you can’t just do it occasionally and then let it rest. You should be incorporating a few minutes of it every day, whether it’s singing them a lullaby before bed or doing a quick mid-afternoon song and dance.
- Hum some too: While singing is fun, sometimes it’s good for your child to concentrate on the melody rather than the words. You can do this with any song you’d ordinarily sing just by removing the words.
- Don’t micromanage: Your child isn’t ready to become a professional musician so try to resist your inner urge to be a critic. Don’t try to show them techniques for playing instruments and don’t criticize the way they sing their song. Just let them have fun and be as silly as they want to be.
- Get your caregivers in on the act: If you spend long work days away from your kids but you want them to have the joys and benefits of music, give them the tools so they can engage with it at their caregiver’s house. You can bring a small instrument for them to play or ask the caregiver to sing to them occasionally.
If you are looking for songs your preschooler or toddler might love, check out these songs. You should keep introducing new music as you’d like to your child, but they’ll have stronger opinions about it than they did when they were babies. Don’t take it personally if they hate a song you love.
These choices offer a good mix of songs for dance time. You’ll also find songs your child can relax to at bedtime.
Playlist for Toddlers
The Gummy Bear Song
The Green Anaconda Song
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Under the Sea
The Ants Go Marching
Who Took the Cookie
The Princess Who Saved Herself
Return to Pooh Corner
Music in Schools
When it comes time for you and your child to decide if they will join band or choir at school or learn to play an instrument outside of school, you might want to keep in mind the benefits your child can reap.
Learning to play an instrument can be an expensive undertaking by the time you buy the instrument and pay a professional for lessons, but you’ll get rewards for that money as well.
The Benefits of Music Education
Let’s look at some of the benefits music education can bring into your child’s life.
- Their brain is more fully utilized: Because a lot of the brain is engaged while a person is playing an instrument, there is more growth for neural activity.
- Coordination: The importance of great hand-eye coordination can’t be overstated. It can help in a lot of ways, including sports if your child wants to participate in athletics as well as music.
- Developing focus: Music can help children hone their ability to focus intently on what they’re learning and doing. When learning to play an instrument, if you don’t pay attention, you won’t move onto the next level of playing.
- Learning patience: Learning to play an instrument can be difficult and frustrating at times, especially when you hit a sour note. You have to dig deep, set aside your frustration, and try to play that piece repeatedly until you do it perfectly. That hard-earned patience will benefit your child throughout their life.
- Happiness: Some students get such joy out of music that it might be the brightest part of their day. If they play music for no other reason than that, it’s a great one!
- Self-esteem: Not everyone is a straight-A student and not everyone is a star athlete. In order for your child to develop high self-esteem, they should find something they excel at and be allowed to participate in it. Music might be where their greatest skill is.
- The pursuit of greatness: Playing music can leave students with a desire to do it perfectly. That drive can spill over into other areas of their lives, such as their school work.
- Learning to perform in front of people: Public speaking remains a big fear for many people. If kids can learn to deal with performance anxiety because of band and choir, they’ll have an easier time with public speaking throughout their lives.
- Better language skills: Music helps the left side of the brain develop. That’s the side that’s responsible for processing language. Being a good speaker can help your child socially throughout their life.
- Relaxation: Students who are wound too tightly don’t always have the most active social calendar — they can be stressful to be around. Music can be relaxing to some students, whether they’re singing or playing.
- Finding your people: School music education might allow your child to find his core group of friends as well as a sense of belonging. And if your child is hanging out with children who would rather form a garage band than do things to get in trouble, you’ve won at this parenting game. Those are the friends you’ll want your child to have.
- Teamwork: Being part of a band or a choir means your child will have other people counting on their performance. That will lead to feelings of being part of a team, which is something athletes understand but it’s a skill that isn’t always emphasized in schools (12).
- Learning to multi-task: The best students are ones that can use all of their talents and abilities to multi-task while they’re working on something. Music is like that too. The best musicians are ones who have to juggle their skills simultaneously to stay on task.
- Ups their IQ: If you want your child to make the most of their intelligence, music education can help. It can build their IQ a small amount — one study showed an average of a three-point increase (13).
- Better spatial-temporal reasoning: Because of music, your child could be special when it comes to being spatial. Spatial-temporal skills, the kind utilized by people doing math, art, computer work, engineering, and architecture, are improved in children who study music.
- Better test takers: When it comes to standardized testing, children who study music in great music programs perform better than ones who don’t take music education or don’t have access to a good program. It might be in part because of the focus learning about music requires.
- Honing their memory: Whether they’re learning the lyrics to a song or memorizing music for a song they’re playing, students use their brain for memorization purposes when they are involved with music education.
- The pursuit of a career path: For some students, music just won’t be an enjoyable hobby. It will become their career. And it’s a career they might not have pursued if you didn’t enroll them in music education.
7 Tips for Choosing the Right Instrument
If you know you want your child to play an instrument, but you aren’t sure which one, here are some tips to help you decide.
- Let your child have a say: If you love the idea of your child playing violin, but they’re drawn to the flute, consider letting them have their way or learning both instruments. Your child is the one who will play the instrument so some of the choice should be theirs. However, do keep in mind that if longevity is your primary goal, there are typically only 2 instruments that can survive music lessons into adulthood and those are the piano and guitar.
- Affordability: In a perfect world, you would be able to buy whichever instrument your child was interested in. But some instruments cost more than others and you shouldn’t short your essentials such as food and shelter to spring for an instrument.
- Space: If you don’t have room in your house for a piano, but that’s your child’s first choice, you may have to help steer them to a more practical instrument for your household.
- Sanity: If your child wants to play drums, but you can’t have all that noise while they are practicing, you’ll have to set some ground rules. Maybe you can buy a pair of earplugs for their practice sessions or you can set up their drums in the garage for them to practice in.
- What music they like best: If your child is hardcore into rock or pop, but they want to play the flute, they might be disappointed when they realize flutes aren’t featured very often in their favorite genre. Maybe a guitar or drums would be a better choice.
- Let them try a few: If you want to know what your child has an aptitude for and likes before shelling out the money to buy an instrument they might hate, ask the music teacher at your school to see if they have any instruments your child could test drive before making a decision. The worst they’ll do is tell you they don’t.
- Are they showing interest in songwriting and singing: Even at a young age, some children show a natural interest in performing and songwriting. If they are a singer, you might want to steer them toward an instrument they can play while singing, like guitar or piano.
How to Keep Them Encouraged
Playing an instrument can be tedious work at times, especially for a child who doesn’t seem particularly motivated yet. The last thing you want to do is push them too hard because they’ll start to resent music instead of enjoying it.
- Find them a role model: Sometimes all it takes is seeing a talented musician playing the same instrument as they are to keep children wanting to practice hard. Take them to a concert or look up music videos where someone is playing their instrument.
- Talk to their instructor: Their music teacher will likely have some fun drills they can practice, particularly if they’re used to working with kids. Having fun while playing will keep them motivated.
- Have them give an impromptu concert: Have some friends or relatives coming over? Ask them if they’ll sit through one or two songs of your child playing their instrument. Putting on a show might provide enough reason to keep practicing for your child.
- Make a schedule: It can get overwhelming sometimes for students who are juggling music and other extracurriculars along with their schoolwork. Planning can help with that. Pencil a few practice sessions in for the week and keep them like you would any other appointment.
- Use the Internet: The internet has revolutionized the way we are able to learn music. From watching live tutorial videos on YouTube to instantly playing the chords of your favorite song (with sites like Chordify), this is one space where technology can actually help keep your kids engaged in learning.
The Bottom Line
By encouraging your child to love music, you’ll be setting them up for success in every area of their life. But the key is to help them truly enjoy it, not just be something they feel forced to do.
By introducing them to music at a young age and showing them how much fun you have when you’re singing, playing an instrument, or listening to music on the radio, you’ll keep them motivated and interested.
The most important thing you can do is to lead by example, so if you’re enjoying yourself while you are involved with music, they likely will too.
Do any of your children play instruments? If so, please share some tips that have helped your child stay on track.