Infants & Toddlers: Making Music

Sharing sounds, singing, dancing around the room together - music inspires special times.

  • Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K

Infants

Infants respond profoundly to the emotional resonances of music. Through the ages, nurses and caregivers have murmured and sung "Ah-ah, baby" in order to soothe infants into slumber.  

Babies Respond Eagerly to Rhythmic Music

If you beat out the rhythms to "Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow" on a tambour and sing-song the words, then eight-month-- olds seated in infant seats will bounce rhythmically with pleasure to your chanting singsong. Babies enjoy songs in many languages. Try "Frere Jacques, frere Jacques, dormez-vous?" with nine-month-olds. They will nod and bounce to the musical rhythms. Folk music of other lands is easily introduced when infants can feel the beat.

Babies Use Different Intonations Before One Year

Babies are natural music makers. By one year most babies use several different intonations and voice tones to indicate questioning, commanding, and narrating. Tune in to the different tones that babies use to express their wishes and commentaries. Babies babble toward the end of the first year, and in that musical melange of tones, often the earliest words occur. Listen in on babies in their cribs. Sometimes they murmur syllables in musical chants to themselves.

Sing While You Play Action Games Gently With Baby's Fingers and Toes

Babies enjoy sounds that accompany actions involving their bodies. At less than six months, babies grin when you play "This little piggy goes to market; this little piggy stays home." They wiggle their toes to invite you to replay the musical game. (Remember that some vegetarian families will want you to substitute "tofu" for "roast beef" when singing this song.) Very young babies love when you clap their feet together as you sing a lilting chant. They listen and watch attentively when you take their hands and sing "Pat a cake, pat a cake, baker's man" as you play out the actions.

Dance While Singing With Baby

Put on slow waltz music and dance around the room with baby cheek-to-cheek in your arms. Hum the melody as you dance slowly. Combining dancing with music and singing is a pleasurable experience for baby. Play classical tapes, such as Mozart pieces or Brahms or Schubert songs, for babies so they can enjoy glorious music at an early age.

Use Music to Lull Babies to Sleep

Babies who have trouble settling into slumber respond to long soothing lullabies with lots of verses and a certain monotony of slow rhymes and rhythms. "Hush, little baby, don't say a word, Papa's gonna buy you a mocking bird" is a wonderful long lullaby that eases babies into dreamland.

Lullabies from other cultures enrich a baby's music repertoire. "Fais do-do, Colin mon petit frere" (Go nite-nite, Colin my little brother) is a French lullaby with a strong simple rhythm that appeals to infants.

Music Reassures Infants Worried About Separation

Hap Palmer's song "My mama comes back, she always comes back, she always comes back to me. My mama comes back, she always comes back, she never would forget me" can be helpful with babies who act worried about separation from parents and need a special reassuring song from you.

Music Can Be the Key to Unlocking More Language Tries From a Baby

Your songs with simple words inspire babies to try their own cooing melodies and beginning songs.

Toddlers 

Toddlers are born music makers. They hum rhyming nonsense syllables in their cribs such as "Oogy, woogy, poogie bear!" They experiment with sounds and melodic rhythms as they play. Toddlers trumpet boisterously to hear the wonderful sounds and noises they can make with their very own vocal chords. Toddlers are doers! No longer are they "done unto." Now, as toddlers, they want to feed themselves and move themselves and utter sounds and sing songs for themselves.

Count on Toddler Imitation Skills to Promote Song Learning

Toddlers are great copycats! If one takes a toy to play with, often another toddler will want that same toy. Toddlers will copy the simple melodies and easy words to songs you sing frequently with them. They may garble the words, but some can sing on pitch by age two and a half. Humming "A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket" gives the pleasure of rhythm, rhyme, and melody to the toddler whose teacher has sung that bouncy song over and over with the group.

Music Promotes Cognitive and Language Learning

Songs with simple words, lines ending in easy rhymes, and catchy melodies make it easier for toddlers to start memorizing songs. Stretch your babies' mental abilities by singing songs daily so they can learn the words, even when their pronunciation is still a bit garbled.

Use Songs to Promote Listening Skills

If you sing regularly to toddlers, they will look forward with pleasure to old familiar songs and to new songs you introduce gradually. By listening to you, they learn to focus their attention in order to try to catch the melodies and the words. Rhyming-couplet songs that tell a story will be particularly helpful to promote listening skills. "Mr. Froggy went a-courting and he did ride...um hum...um hum" is an old folk song with a simple story line. You may want to create couplets to add to this long song about Mr. Froggy and Miss Mousey. Or you can even make up some simple actions for toddlers to try.

Toddlers Love Action Songs

Because toddlers are on the go and are so active, try songs that suggest lots of actions to accompany the music. "The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round" encourages toddlers to use many different hand motions. "The eentsy, weentsy spider climbed up the water spout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out" is another song with hand motions that intrigue and challenge toddlers to copy.

  • Subjects:
    Child and Infant Care, Child Development and Behavior, Communication and Language Development, Dance, Music
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