Mellow Mummy: Why Music Matters for Babies : Taking life as it comes...

Monday, 20 September 2010

Why Music Matters for Babies

Having seen the effect it has had on my own daughter, I strongly believe that getting your children involved with music at an early age is a great way of encouraging creativity and improving social and language skills. Recent research carried out by Sony Music reveals the importance parents place on singing songs and listening to music with their children. 40% of parents believe that music improves their children’s senses and 35% think it helps form a bond between them and their child. 

Lara is a musical soul, which is weird, as there is barely a musical bone in my body, or that of Mr. B. I can honestly say that music is one of Lara's favourite things. She likes to play music, to listen to music and to dance to music. I put this down to the fact that I started taking Lara to music lessons when she was just 8 weeks old!

During my maternity leave I took Lara to a weekly 'Music with Mummy' lesson. It lasted just 30 minutes and my exhausted little girl would leave beaming from ear to ear. From the point when she was just learning to exercise her grip, Lara would play with a rattle or drum while we sang along to nursery rhymes or songs and encouraged the babies to get involved. As the weeks passed, I saw Lara grow in confidence around the other children and become more actively involved in the music-making.

When I returned to work at 7 months, I had the difficult choice of which of Lara's lessons we would continue on my single day off each week. I chose the swimming lessons because I felt that I could buy some CDs and fashion some instruments of my own and continue with Lara's musical entertainment at home.

Creating your own musical instruments is a great way of bonding with your baby. Some of Lara's favourites included a tin of lentils (yes, the lid did fly off and send lentils everywhere!), a plastic pot filled with pasta and rice and, the all-time favourite - a saucepan with a wooden spoon. Lara was recently sent a few musical instruments. I have caught her on many occasions shaking her bells and her maracas to the rhythm of a song playing on TV while dancing on the spot! At 15 months old she has also already worked out that to make the recorder play a note, she has to blow through it and not just say “ooh” into it.

My quest to turn Lara into a musical maestro was somewhat scuppered when I realised that it is actually very hard to find good quality music for young children. I had imagined a CD full of nursery rhymes that I knew and loved, recorded in a quality way that would inspire Lara to join in. What I found on my first few attempts at buying a kids CD was that in general they were all recorded by a lonely bloke in his back room with an awful lot of “la, la, la-ing” when he'd forgotten the words and “oooohing” to fill in the gaps between single (or even half) verses of hundreds of different songs (some of which I had never heard of and rather think were invented on the fly).

In the Sony research, 70% of mums said they sing the same nursery rhymes over and over to their children every week and more than a third of parents (36%) admitted that they get irritated and bored of the same nursery rhymes and driven to distraction by most of the children’s music they hear.   The research revealed that over half of parents (51%) believe that there is a lack of decent children’s music that they too can enjoy.

We recently discovered the Toybox album by The Rainbow Collections (featuring the voice of Zero 7, no less!). We already owned their previous CD – Lullaby which is a beautiful collection of bedtime tracks but Toybox was EXACTLY what we were looking for. Toybox is a collection of 14 tracks from 'I'm a little teapot' to 'Humpty Dumpty' and 'Old Macdonald'. They are all songs and rhymes that are well known and they are presented in a fun, but modern way. You can sing along to them all but each of the tracks is that little bit more than your usual rendition.

One of my mummy testers, Kathryn (Mum to a 15 month old) describes the tracks on Toybox, “Each track is a bit like a story that develops. It starts off as something recognisable but it grows and builds until it becomes a little bit jazzy.”

I found the music fun and engaging and I really can imagine listening to the CD quite frequently without going bonkers! It is a refreshing change to find a baby music CD that is produced to a high quality.

When I see the joy and laughter that playing, dancing to and listening to music brings to Lara, I always smile. I love watching her practice her moves to the music and can see it helps her to develop her balance and dexterity. When she sings (which she does a lot, especially in the back of the car), it gives me a shiver of delight every time I hear her come up with a new word. All of Lara's first words have been lyrics to songs - "Row, Row, Row", "Head" (as in shoulders, knees and toes) and "Peppa Pig" (including the doo,doo bit afterwards). There is no doubt that music helps Lara develop her language and movement skills.

Note: The research mentioned above was conducted by Sony music as a survey of 1000 British parents in July 2010.
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