Have you noticed the innate musicality of babies and young children? Watching and listening to the babies in our music class on Monday was pure joy. After singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and leaving a pause at the end, a baby aged 6 months sang the fifth note (the note that the second word “Twinkle” is pitched on). I waited and watched her. She started moving and waving her hands and sang the note again, a clear signal that she wanted the song sung again. When we sang it again she beamed and wiggled with delight. At the end of the song, another little boy aged 7 months repeated the last note, which was immediately imitated by another baby.

Mothers and fathers were smiling with pride when we watched, waited and listened, and another baby blew a raspberry, while another sang a little motif, setting the tone for more vocal exploration.

The secret to musical play for babies and young children is to give them time, to use pauses, to echo their sounds, and follow their lead. When a baby sings a note, I always copy. Parents quickly learn to echo what their babies are singing. One mother said on Monday that she has noticed how her little girl Georgie is singing when she wakes up and will practise her singing in her cot for some time, before she will give a cry as if to say, “Come and pick me up”.

Older children love it when parents sing and play with them. Several parents have told me that their children are giving concerts at home, taking pride in being the conductor and delighting in leading the family in musical play. For example, Sam aged 3, found a piece of driftwood at the beach, which is now his microphone. He and his Dad have created a little stage area in their lounge and every night before he goes to bed he sings to his parents and siblings and gets them to join in. His parents have filmed these sessions and say it is a daily highlight for them all and is the perfect way of getting the children ready for bed.

Take time to watch, wait, listen and wonder through musical play. You are helping to promote your children’s musicality and creativity, as well as musical bonds of loving interaction with your child.

© Julie Wylie, 22 August, 2019