Music and songs have a special place in our lives. They make us feel strong emotions and are the theme songs to our memories. Most people enjoy them, but did you know that singing to your baby has so many benefits?
The Benefits of Singing
Singing soothes. My son, Theodore, was born three weeks early. I was so scared. He was born 4 lb 12 oz. He was tiny. We stayed at the hospital for 5 days and when we got home we had problems feeding. Needless to say, I was a hot mess.
But, out of nowhere, I started to hum to Theodore. The night we arrived home, I sang “Hush, Little Baby” to him over and over and over. Where this song came from, I have no clue. It just popped up. Strangely enough, my singing to him not only soothed him, but even comforted me.
Singing slows down our language. “Parentese” is the drawn out words people tend to use around babies. It’s not baby-talk where people use “watered down” vocabulary, but are adult words spoken melodically. Singing is a bit like “parentese” which studies have shown to build up language in the learner. Singing helps to break up words and helps children become aware that words are made up for smaller sounds. This knowledge comes in handy years down the road when our babies become literal readers. But, for know, the little ditties we sing help to make connections in their brains about their world and language. Eventually, your baby will try to sing/babble back when you do familiar songs. Then, it will truly be singing with your baby, instead of to your baby!
Singing teaches your baby about the world. Most awesome baby songs are known as “bounces” or action songs. Doing actions along with singing helps your child’s brain make a connection between the spoken words and physical actions. The words sung will have meaning as you act out the words.
Singing makes everyone happy. If you think you have a terrible singing voice, you still should sing to your baby (because, honestly, your child doesn’t know; he or she just knows you and loves you!). With your baby, it doesn’t matter how you sound. Most people feel happier after they sing as if no one is watching, and your child will be so much happier watching you do that. So, belt it out with your baby. Bounce your baby and sing aloud the funny words that many nursery songs have!
Listening to music and singing builds rhythm. I also wanted to mention listening to songs recorded to actual music. Play lullabies, but don’t just play lullabies. Introduce your baby to your favorite music. Even plain instrumental music is good for babies because it, like rhymes and songs, has a rhythm. As your child grows, he or she will eventually move to the music, you know, trying to dance.
While I encourage you to listen to your favorite music, there are tons of children singers and bands out there that write music specifically for the growing child…and they entertain adults at the same time. Give them a shot! Artists like Laurie Berkner, Jim Gill, Ella Jenkins and the Wiggles are a few awesome artists to introduce your growing child to.
A Few of my Favorite Songs
At my baby shower, someone bought me this book, Nursery Rhymes. It comes with a CD. The singer had a British accent and sang these nursery rhymes I had only heard spoken. But, I had a light bulb moment when listening to the CD and a new understanding of “paretnese.” I can pretty much sing any rhyme.
These have been my golden songs to sing with babies. They include actions that you can do, if you wish. Babies enjoy bounces, but you can morph the songs into whatever you want. Substitute words and actions. Own these songs to make them enjoyable for both you and your child.
The Noble Duke of York
Begin holding your baby in your arms, marching in place. Then whenever you say a command, such as “up,” “right,” etc. lift your baby that way.
Oh, the noble Duke of York
He had ten thousand men
He marched them to the top of the hill
And marched them down again
And when they’re up, they’re up
And when they’re down, they’re down
But when they’re only half way up,
They’re never up nor down.
He marched them to the left
He marched them to the right
He even marched them upside down
Now isn’t that a sight!
Goosey, Goosey, Gander
I do this song as a bounce.
Goosey, goosey, gander
Whither saw I wander?
Upstairs or downstairs
Or in my lady’s chambers?
There I saw an old man
Who would not say his prayers
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.
This is the Way the Lady Rides
Again, a fun bounce. For the “lady” part, you bounce slowly. For the “gentleman,” you bounce faster. Then for the “farmer,” you bounce crazy! I sing this song to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush.”
This is the way the lady rides,
The lady rides, the lady rides.
This is the way the lady rides
So early in the morning.
This is the way the gentleman rides…
This is the way the farmer rides…
Change the letter “B” and the word “baby” with your baby’s first initial and name. Drawing attention to that first initial helps bring awareness that the spoken word is made up of smaller units.
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake baker’s man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Pat it, prick it, and mark it with a B
Put it in the oven for baby and me!
Hush, Little Baby
I normally sang this before bed.
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word.
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird won’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass.
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna buy you a billy goat.
And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.
And if that cart and bull turn over,
Papa’s gonna buy you a dog named Rover.
And if that dog named Rover won’t bark,
Papa’s gonna buy you a horse and cart.
And if that horse and cart fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.
It changed my life learning that singing is so beneficial…and releasing. I could sing with him everywhere! In the tub, in the car, during diaper changes, while nursing…
Where and what songs do you sing with your baby? Do you use actions along with them? Do you ever spice the songs up because you sing them so much? Let me know! I love learning how to do songs differently.