From the day your baby is born, you watch them grow and change on a daily basis. It is amazing to see the physical, emotional and developmental changes!
There are important milestones to watch for as your baby progresses and you can use music to support learning. Here are some ideas for how you can do this at every stage of your child’s development:
1 month -- Your baby’s hearing is fully developed, even before his sight. During tummy time, shake an instrument such as a shaker or rattle to one side of your baby’s head. Watch as he picks up his head and turns to look towards the sound source. Not only does this exercise his muscles, it also exercises his ability to look towards and track the sound source.
3 months -- Your baby will start to babble and mimic sounds. Help to shape those sounds by emphasizing your mouth and affect while singing simple sounds such as “ohhhh”, “ahhhh” and even “lalala”. Praise your baby as he attempts to mimic your sounds and affect. This also offers opportunities for vocal play between you and your baby. Have fun with it and be silly with your sounds!
4-6 months -- By this point, it is important to establish a routine for your baby. Make music part of your routine in order to create predictability. For instance, sing “row your boat” as bath time approaches or turn on a soothing lullaby CD as you are preparing your baby for bedtime. Use the same music on a daily basis and this will create predictability for your baby, cuing him that it is time to wind down as bedtime approaches.
9-12 months -- Your baby is crawling and cruising at this point and participating in motor imitation. Turn on some fun music that has a steady and strong beat. Sit in front of your baby and clap with the beat. Once your baby successfully starts clapping with you, change your action (such as tapping your tummy) and watch as your baby follows. Provide gentle prompting if needed.
18 months -- Your baby can say at least several single words. Sing a familiar song such as “baa baa black sheep” and leave out an occasional word such as “sheep” for your baby to fill in. Praise any attempt that provides a sound similar to the actual word.
24 months -- Your baby is now a toddler and is experiencing growing independence, following 2 step directions, identifying shapes and colors and putting together short phrases and sentences. Give your toddler a choice between two instruments such as bells or shaker. If he points or grabs towards one, encourage him to verbally ask by prompting “shaker please”. This gives freedom of choice and encourages verbalization.
2-3 years -- His imagination is flying! Provide musical opportunities for socialization such as creating a band with some pots and pans. On playdates or with siblings, you can practice turn taking by cuing one child to stop while the other plays, then they play together, then the other child stops and listens. This encourages turn taking, good listening skills, impulse control, following directions as well as a crazy solo opportunity!
…and don’t be shy to bring out your silly side as you use music as a motivator with your little one – have fun!