Musical Mondays: Listening Ears

The simple act of listening to music can have a significant impact on both parent and child.  Listening to music together is an inexpensive and easy activity that can be wonderful bonding experience shared by the entire family.  Not to mention, the extensive benefits for your child’s development.

Listening, comparing, and responding to various types of music helps to develop thinking skills.  Early music exposure can help promote critical language and literacy as well as creativity and coordination. Listening to music will help teach your child about patterns and sequence, and about rhythm, beat and tone which are useful for problem-solving and reasoning.  Research has shown us that children with a strong sense of beat are more likely to read well and excel at math.  Listening to music helps put babies and toddlers into a relaxed and receptive state.  Music also has the ability to raise your child’s self-confidence and self-esteem and can become a form of expression for your baby when they can’t yet talk.

So now that we know the incredible benefits of listening to music, how can we make music the most important fixture in your home?  Nowadays, music is always available because it is so easily accessed.  Many people can play music from their phones, computers and televisions.  Putting on your favorite tune and dancing around with your baby is a great way to spend time with your little one.  Think of your family’s daily life as a movie that needs a soundtrack.  Having songs playing all the time will help cultivate your child’s interest in music, so that as they grows, they’ll have an ear for it.  Make music a part of your day by breaking into sing songs during playtime.  A simple game of peekaboo can spark a musical moment.  And as the day winds down, listening to music at bedtime is a great way to help your child get ready to sleep.  Recorded lullabies are sweet, but babies love the sounds of your voice the best.

When it comes to playing tunes for your kids, think cheerful and simple songs.  Let your personal preference be your guide.  If you like classical music and your baby appears to enjoy it too, go with that.  Anything with a good melody will do, although slow songs tend to work best for bedtime and fast ones for playtime.  Your goal should be to cultivate a love for music in your child.  It should be about having fun and exposing your child to new sounds and rhythms.  Looking to spice it up a bit?  Bring your children to listen to live music.  These are great opportunities to expose them to many different instrumental sounds and styles of music.

When listening to music with your child, help them to become an active listener by calling attention to particular sections in a recording or song.  For example, comment on the tempo (slow, fast), the pitch (high, low), the volume (soft, loud) or the different types of instruments (drums, flutes, etc.) that you hear.  Over time, auditory discrimination is enhanced as the child learns about these concepts.

In my classes, one of our favorite songs to listen to is Aquarium, from Carnival of the Animals off of the Kids Can Listen, Kids Can Move! by Lynn Kleiner.  With the help of their parents, children move to the music using scarves or instruments.  Each movement is intentional, dancing down low as the melody descends and back up again when the music ascends.  The kids love to practice their jumping at the end when they hear the oboe.  Moving our bodies with the music is a great way to teach children to be active listeners as well as teach musical form.

Introducing your child to the wonders of listening to music is truly a gift .  And the earlier you expose them, the better.  At 6 months in utero, your baby is able to discriminate sound.  Although most of the sounds in the womb are muffled, the melody and rhythm of music are not much altered. A baby’s brain is able to register the rhythmic patterns of the music, and changes in beat and melody are picked up.  So, take time to sit quietly and invite your baby to a concert in the womb.  Singing and listening to music is a beautiful way to begin your relationship with your baby.

Whether your baby is in or out of the womb, putting on your listening ears and cranking up your favorite song is a wonderful way to share the joy of music with your child.  And the best part?  There are no rules.  Just sit back, relax and listen :)

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