Last week my blog focused on our musicianship classes for older children, so this week I’m going to talk about all the songs and musical activities we do here at ‘do re mi’ specifically aimed at our babies. This blog will focus on how we use music with our babies in nursery, and next week I will talk about our Musical Learning baby classes.
So, within the nursery, we use lots of music in the baby room just like in all the other rooms. Our practitioners sing with the babies throughout the day, in addition to me leading slightly more structured music times across the week.
The main thing we remember with babies is that, although they aren’t actually joining in with the singing, they are taking it all in and we see lots of evidence of them feeling the beat: them making body movements or sounds in time to the beat. We also find the children who have been with us since babies can often play our instruments in time to the beat from a very early age. Babies exposed to lots of music also develop what we call a ‘musical ear’ which means that once they are old enough to join in the singing, they are able to hear the different pitches clearly and reproduce these in their own singing accurately.
Being exposed to quality music provision from an early age doesn’t just benefit musical development, though. There is a huge amount of research that shows music helps with more general speech and language development as well. Being exposed to ‘organised sound’ really helps with bringing on speech. We often find our really young children listen to most of a song and then join in with one or two words with confidence much earlier than you might expect, and this is because of the familiarity of these songs.
Songs that use an element of anticipation are really good for this, so for example our rhyme of the week this week ‘one hop, two hop, I’m a little frog’ finishes with ‘wheeeeeeee…. Plop!’. The ‘wheee’ builds anticipation for the plop, and we often extend the ‘whee’ a little longer each time. The babies definitely know what’s coming with lots of excited arm waving and those who are starting to develop speech often try saying ‘plop’ as they feel confident in the context of the familiarity of the rhyme.
Similarly, it isn’t just our structured music time that helps with speech and language development. We also as practitioners make sure we communicate with babies in a number of ways, and this can include mirroring the noises that they make. This means we can have a ‘conversation’ with babies long before they can actually properly speak. We mirror their ‘coos’, their babbling, and it's amazing to see the reaction this can bring. It gives the babies a sense of control that they are able to initiate communication and a real sense of worth that the adult is copying exactly the noises they are making.
If you’d like to read some of the latest research around music and speech and language development in the early years, have a look at the SALTMusic research project here https://www.priorycentre.co.uk/assets/children-and-families/SaltMusic-Research-Report.pdf