Dear Expecting and New Parents,
There is often the perception that a child’s first school teacher is the most important teacher. Well, I have been an early years teacher for 12 years and let me tell you that the one thing that has become more and more clear to me over the years; a parent is always a child’s first and most important teacher. Yes, that’s you!
This is a huge responsibility and may seem overwhelming to first time parents. Particularly in the first few months of navigating the unfamiliar world of nappy-changing, feeding and sleeping routines.
How Serious Are You About Your Child’s Development?
But, parenting is about much, more than meeting a baby’s physical needs. If you are willing to take the role of parent as first teacher seriously, you can give your child a head-start in life. It is actually much easier than it sounds and the benefits are life-long.
Here are three simple strategies to help you on your way to be your child first and best teacher!
1. Talk, sing and play music to your baby in the womb
Babies are learning from you even before they are born. When a baby is in utero, they hear and learn to recognise their mother’s voice and familiar voices around them. Research has also found that babies experience their first lessons in their native language while still in the womb. This doesn’t mean that they are learning words or the meanings of words. It means that they are developing an ear for language, learning to distinguish rhythmic and melodic patterns. Just by talking to your baby throughout the day and even with others, you are setting the foundations for their future language development.
Your baby may also learn to connect certain experiences to the way you are feeling at the time. For instance, when you speak in a tone that is negative or angry, it is likely that cortisol is released and crosses the placenta. Whereas if you are speaking in calm, loving tones and feeling relaxed, then your baby is more likely to feel calm and relaxed. Studies have shown that if you listen to a certain piece of music while relaxing, the same music may soothe your baby after birth.
Singing to your baby, especially soothing songs like lullabies is a wonderful way to reduce stress and foster emotional regulation.
2. Interact with your newborn
Babies are mini humans and just like us they have an innate need to be social. They want to interact with people. The way that you interact with them helps to develop a secure and trusting attachment. According to John Bowlby, a British psychologist and founder of the attachment theory, children who are securely attached at an early age tend to develop stronger self-esteem and better self-reliance as they mature. Such children are also likely to be more independent, to learn better at school, to enjoy successful social relationships, and to be less likely to suffer depression and anxiety. Those are some very positive outcomes!
Your baby will give you cues to tell you how they are feeling and what they need. If you pay attention and respond to these cues, you will help them develop a secure and trusting attachment with you. Singing to your baby is also a great way to strengthen the bond between you. It doesn’t matter what you sing or how you sing it (no, you don’t have to have the vocal prowess of Ariana Grande), your voice is the most beautiful sound in the world to your little one.
3. Share music activities with your baby
Once your baby is a few months old, you can share a broader range of music activities with them. Studies have shown that babies who experience music interactively with their parents develop better early communication skills (ie. pointing at objects, waving goodbye).
The developmental benefits of music are numerous, and include:
- brain development
- language development
- early literacy and numeracy skills
Activities like traditional nursery rhymes help build your child’s phonological awareness, a crucial skill to develop in children, as it is strongly linked to early reading and spelling success. Songs and rhymes also teach baby new words, increasing their vocabulary.
Action songs (such as fingerplays) help babies attach words to meanings.
Instrumental activities (using basic percussion instruments or pots and pans) teach your child to take turns and keep the beat.
Listen and move activities in which you and your baby listen and move to a variety of musical styles, engage many different regions of your baby’s brain all at once.
All of these benefits also flow through to children who are learning English as a second language from a young age. And music really does make it fun!
How to do Music Activities With Your Baby…
I’m sure by now you understand why you should do music activities with your baby, but how?
If you are telling yourself that you have no idea how to do music activities, the good news is that help is available. I have used my early years education experience and musical skills to develop an online program of music activities for babies – The Bubble Box. You’ll learn how to do music with your baby in the comfort of your own home. It’s like a structured, face-to-face music class, but it’s online, so it’s flexible and easy. I demonstrate the activities through videos which you can watch on your phone or device as many times as you like.
So what is the takeaway? Talk, sing, communicate and share music with your baby as much as possible. And remember that you are your child’s first and most important teacher. Your home is better than any classroom for teaching your baby and setting them up for a lifetime of success.