by Erin Brand, MM, MT-BC
Music is a fun and easy way to create a connection with a new baby as well as to support baby’s mental and emotional development. Engaging your little ones in music-making at home creates a strong family bond and fun traditions.
Purposeful touch using “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”
Place your baby in front of you on the floor. Walk your fingers up and down your baby’s body to the beat while singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” Repeat, adding a short pause between repetitions. Leaving space allows your baby time to coo or hum to you. If you hear it, echo back to reinforce and support their first attempts at singing! One of the early steps in a child’s tonal development is to shift from their own personal pitch center to match the last note of a song you sing.
Another day, sing to the same tune, but change the “type” of spider and the tempo of the song:
• A zippy little spider who runs twice as fast on the micro-beat or slow tired spider who moves twice as slow on the macro beat.
• Perhaps you have a jumpy spider who likes to give gentle alternating squeezes on their arms or legs. Maybe your baby would like to be the jumpy spider as you pump their legs up together or in a bicycle fashion.
• An easy breezy spider sweeps down your baby’s body with light feather touches while a heavy hefty spider moves with a gentle pressure up and down their body.
Purposeful touch has been found to help babies relax, improve blood flow and circulation, and promotes longer and sounder sleep. It also increases the emotional connection between you and your child. Phew! So much positive benefit just from short well-known folk tune and some creativity.
When you add music to purposeful touch you get all those benefits in additional to musical ones too. Children are sensory learners; they are taking in musical cues visually as they watch you move, aurally as they listen to you sing, and kinesthetically as you show them the pulse in their bodies.
Dance with baby to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake (or any song that gets you dancing!)
One great way to help babies feel the beat is to dance with them. There is research which shows that newborns do not differentiate between their bodies and the loved one who is holding them. So if you are dancing, then they are dancing!
Try starting with an easy sway or a gentle step-tap pattern with your feet. Move around the room and add a turn here and there. Look for different ways of moving that will help them experience different levels of the beat. A quick shuffle step to the side or a few big swooping sways will do the trick.
Many people develop a “favorite” comfortable baby hold, but there are different types of holds, and changing holds will give your baby different sensory experiences and stimulate their vestibular system (which regulates balance and sensory integration). Experiment with holding your baby towards you, away from you, or do an airplane hold to add variety.
Lullaby using “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”
Whenever I ask my five-year-old what song we should sing as a lullaby, he almost always answers “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Did you know that “Twinkle, Twinkle” shares its famous tune with the “ABC Song” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep?” Go ahead, take a minute and try it out. Yep—same song! This is a great song for transitioning your baby to sleep during nap and bedtime.
Lullabies are one of the easiest ways to incorporate music making into your daily family routine. Your voice (whether you consider yourself a good singer or not) is the most calming to your child. All of the hours of holding, feeding, cleaning, caring, and loving are intimately tied to the sound of your voice. This unique connection cannot be replicated by a lullaby song from Spotify or Pandora, so set aside your doubts and sing anyway!
Why are lullabies so effective? Because children thrive on routine. Routine helps children be able to predict what’s coming next, which creates a sense of comfort and security. Lullabies also create a feeling of belonging to a family. Starting this routine when your child is young means that the tradition will be more likely to continue as your child grows.
These quiet moments at the end of the day provide the perfect opportunity to check in—you never know what might be on their minds. Finally, lullabies allow you to close the day with gentleness and love.
Erin Brand has her Masters in Music and is a Board Certified Music Therapist. To learn more about how to connect with your baby or young child check out one of our Music Together® classes. To register for a class or find a schedule of free demos, visit www.lovejoymusicMT.org.