Do you ever turn on the TV for background noise in the evening, and sometimes not even realize or pay attention to what show is on? As adults, we are not always aware of the sounds around us. When our child is within earshot, it is important to be aware of the sounds that are present in our environment. We are used to noise all around and we know how to tune it out when needed. However children (especially infants) have not learned this skill yet and so the sounds within their environment can sometimes cause overstimulation and possibly a melt-down. Since an infant can’t politely say “turn that down”, most often they demonstrate their dislikes in screams and tears, adding to the noise, and often leading to overstimulation for you as well!
What is the solution? Intentional listening – this simply means to be aware of the environment that you and your child are in and use the background sounds to set the tone for the mood or behaviors that you desire.
When choosing music to have on in the background, choose music that has a consistent beat and pleasant melodies.
- A consistent, rhythmic beat provides predictability for children, which in turn provides security and comfort. A consistent beat can be identified by clapping your hands (or clapping with your baby’s hands) in a consistent rhythm with the music.
- The opposite, arrhythmic beats, would stray away from your consistent clapping. The arrhythmic beats can sometimes be jarring and unpredictable, often creating unease for your child.
- This concept is a little more subjective. Songs that are in a “major mode” provide more of a happy feel and tend to be useful when attempting to elevate your child’s mood. Songs in “minor mode” can be calmer and more relaxing. Now, without music theory training it is difficult to identify the two, but trust your instinct on what feels upbeat and happy vs. calm and quite.
- Examples of songs in a major mode are “Baa Baa Black Sheep” or “I Can See Clearly Now, the Rain is Gone”. When your baby wakes in the morning, a great energizing song that provides a steady beat and pleasant melody might be “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. (side note: you can even encourage vocal play with this song by singing “do do do do” after “here comes the sun” and watch your baby try to mimic your sounds).
- In the evening as your day is winding down, play some soothing music such as Enya, the new age group from the 90’s that offers flowing melodies with little words in their music. If your child is agitated or overstimulated, a soft flowing song could relax your child such as “Pretty Little Horses” or “Hello” by Lionel Richie.
This doesn’t mean that you always need to have “The Wheels on the Bus” CD playing when your child is present – just be aware of the type of sounds your little one is exposed to and be aware of how they are reacting to it. You may find that as you become more cognizant of your surrounding sounds and are intentional with the music and melodies that are playing around you, not only will that elicit a happier baby, but possibly even a happier you!