The other day I was feeling a little stressed about the list of household chores and work I had to get done. Added to that was a dose of “Mummy guilt” about not spending enough time with my 3-year-old on my day off. So I decided to blow a big raspberry to the housework and do what I use to do when Miss 3 was a baby – put on some music and dance with her. We swayed, swung, bounced and boogied to a variety of beats for half an hour. Not only did we have a wonderful time together but also my mood quickly improved and I had more energy to tackle those tasks afterwards. It reminded me what a beneficial activity dancing is for both Mums and bubs.
Dancing with your baby is a fun workout for you
As a new parent, you’re lucky if you can even fit in a shower for the day, let alone get some exercise! Dancing is an excellent form of exercise – it burns calories and builds muscles, helping you get back into shape after childbirth. You can dance with your baby daily, from birth. Just wear him in a baby carrier and get down to whatever music takes your fancy.
I’m sure, like me, you have days when you could use a little help to lighten your mood. As with all exercise dancing releases endorphins, which are an instant boost to your state of mind – and then there’s the added effect of the music. In a recent study, scientists at the University of Missouri have found that people can elevate their mood simply by listening to upbeat music. This doesn’t mean all of your dance session playlist needs to be upbeat but it should certainly feature plenty of cheery tunes.
Dancing with your baby boosts her brain development
Movement is the key to learning. Neuroscientist Carla Hannaford, author of Smart Moves: Why Learning Is Not All in Your Head, explains that beginning in infancy, physical movement plays a vital role in the creation of the nerve cell networks that are at the core of learning. When you move to music with your baby different areas of her brain are activated and synchronized at the same time, meaning her brain is functioning at a higher level! Movement and music used together foster brain development and improve executive functioning (attention, memory, inhibition).
Dancing with your baby fosters her sense of rhythm
You may have noticed your baby bouncing or clapping along to a rhythm and wondered how she learned to do it, particularly if you haven’t been to music classes before. In fact, babies are born with a keen sense of rhythm. Studies have found that babies inherently respond to the rhythm and tempo of music and find it more engaging than speech. By consistently exposing your baby to music and movement you are nurturing your child’s natural rhythm skills. You are also cultivating her ability to express herself through creative movement, which will stay with her throughout her life
Dancing with your baby increases your bond
Just as music can have a powerful effect on you, so too it can have a powerful effect on babies. A recent study found that music can cement social bonds, making babies more likely to help someone after they’ve danced to a song with them. Dancing also promotes skin to skin contact and the more time you spend in close to your baby, the more sensitive you become to your baby’s needs and signals, which makes it easier to decipher what your baby is telling you. Done regularly, shared dancing can become a wonderful way to communicate with your baby.
Tips for dancing with your baby
There are many different ways to dance with your baby. Mix up your dance sessions and try something new each time!
- Dance to different kinds of music and rhythms – from classical and jazz, to world music to your favourite pop tunes! (World music is great as it exposes your baby to rhythmic and metrical patterns outside your cultural context.)
- Hold your baby in a position that suits her age and comfort and try switching up the positions (through her legs facing out, fly her on your arms, in a carrier, on your hip – just make sure that that you hold her tight and keep your movements fluid and safe).
- Freeze to the music for a few seconds to give baby’s body (actually the inner ear) a chance to process all that movement and prepare for the next round.
- Include props in your dancing such as shakers or scarves.
- If you need a little further inspiration each session of my music program for babies features a traditional circle dance and also different music for you to dance to. Here are a couple of activities to get you started…have fun!
Sally Go ‘Round The Sun
What to Do
- Stand up and hold baby securely in your arms.
- Listen to the music intro then move left in a circle walking in time to the music.
- Hold your baby up in the air on Boom!
- Then Pause, turn around and walk in the other direction.
Sally go round the sun, Sally go round the moon, Sally go round the chimney top On a Sunday afternoon. Boom!
What to Do
- Play the music. Note! There is no video demonstration as this is a listen and move activity.
- Bop along with baby however you like!