Why should I sing to my child?

Singing with your young child naturally helps build a strong loving relationship. Have a look at this gorgeous DVD of a mother singing Gershwin’s song “Summertime” with the beautifully illustrated book. Notice how the child is held in his mother’s arms as they move and sing together. They are singing together in synchrony. The pace of the song is slow which gives Bennett’s developing brain opportunity to process and anticipate each sequence of the song. The slow pace naturally brings him to a calm regulated state, with a calm regulated lower brain and slower heart rate. The song has predictable, repetitive, short, fixed musical phrases with well defined intervals e.g. think of the little musical motif used in the word “summertime” and rhythmic patterns.

Notice the way in which Sarah the mother is waiting leaving pauses at the ends of each musical phrase for Bennett to sing the word or words. Sarah is constantly adjusting her singing to promote timing, loving engagement and music interaction. She is singing in her child’s pitch range. At twenty one months, Bennett is able to adjust his voice to match the changes in the rhythm and tempo of his mother’s voice. Often his words are sung in tune! What we see and hear is music improvisation, the impact of which is creating a to-and-fro process of singing communication.

At this age children love predictability and repetition. Every night Sarah sings the same song to Bennett. It is a vital part of his bed time routine. The way she cuddles and sings to him is helping Bennett build an association of what it means to be in a loving relationship with another person. This is helping him to develop a strong sense of self in relation to his mother. He listens intently and is very aware of when he can join in the song. At this age, musical form with a clear predictable beginning, middle and end helps Bennett to be able to process and join with a word or words at the ends of musical phrases.

As with language abilities, perception and reception develop first, then the ability to sing and perform other musical tasks. Bennett has learned to listen, to vocalise expressively, and imitate rhythmic and melodic patterns. He can fill in the gaps at the ends of musical phrases. He is rapidly learning simple nursery rhymes, rhythms and chants.

Even though Bennett is not yet two years of age, he is singing with a strong sense of tunefulness. Sometimes he sings the notes in tune, at other time there is tune approximation. Sometimes he is able to sing the word very clearly, at other times there is word approximation. There is a strong link between song and word clarity because the song has slow steady beat, much use of repetition, musical expression, accent, rhythmic patterning, tune, musical phrase and predictability. The song supports and promotes the use of words and language.

Universally the mother’s voice is the most important voice in the world for the baby and young child. Yes the father’s voice is vitally important as well. Musical play involves lots of close face to face interaction, gazing, waiting, listening, imitation, gestures, humour, facial expressions, musical pauses, and ‘sing song’ turn taking. This approach works because your child learns to read your emotions, to anticipate and respond. Use a rise and fall of pitch in your speaking that is similar to the pitch changes in a tune.

Combine patting, rocking, stroking, when singing a lullaby. Sarah sings in a loving predictable manner. Every evening this lullaby helps both Bennett and his mother to relax, helping Bennett to become very calm and ready for sleep. Not only is this beautiful music routine helping to build precious memories for both parent and child, but it is also laying the foundation of music for life.

Thursday 5th June 2014
– Julie Wylie