Danielle Ballantine-Drake is a big believer in everyone being born musical and wants every child to feel the joy of singing from an early age. Often found hiding behind scarves, playing peek-a-boo she stopped by Dad.info HQ to share her thoughts on the importance of us dads singing with our children. This is what she said..
Dads – sing to your baby!
It really doesn’t matter how well you think you can sing. Your voice is exactly what your baby needs to hear. Singing with babies and young children is a natural part of human life. It happens in every culture across the world. Babies instinctively love the patterns and rhythms of songs. Even young babies can recognize specific melodies once they’ve heard them a few times. Singing with your baby firstly builds bonds, enhances natural routines, and encourages your baby to feel more secure. Finally it helps them to understand and enjoy the world around them.
You, are your baby’s best toy
Babies are literally born ready to learn. They have a natural preference for the human face, voice, touch and smell over everything else. So a baby’s best toy is actually YOU, as you talk, move, touch and sing with them. You don’t need special classes, toys or equipment – your voice is free, portable and available any time you need it!
But I don’t know any baby songs
The most important thing isn’t the songs you choose. Rather it is the fact that you are singing and looking at your baby (i.e. communicating and bonding). There is something to be said for the simplicity of a nursery rhyme because the structure is usually repetitive. This encourages babies to recognise and enjoy familiar parts (which leads to understanding language structure etc.). For inspiration, check out my playlist of popular nursery rhymes here.
What if that’s not your style?
You don’t have to stick to nursery rhymes. Honestly you can sing whatever your favourite songs are. The most important thing is that you are really connecting with your baby so it doesn’t matter what you sing or in what style. I had friends that always successfully got their two babies to sleep by singing heavy metal Metallica songs to them! As adults we may get distracted by our preconceptions about what is ‘good’ music, but making music with babies is not about how good we think we are or even about choosing the ‘right’ style of music. It is all about the joy of shared experience and of feeling valued.
If you feel a bit awkward about singing in public. Just begin by singing or humming softly with your baby when no one else is around. You can gradually get comfortable together. Your baby will probably think you have the best voice in the universe no matter what you sing because they will be enjoying the connection with you. Once you see how much your baby enjoys it, hopefully you’ll stop feeling self-conscious. (Remember – most people genuinely think it is totally normal to sing to a baby and won’t even notice what you’re doing).
Why does singing work?
Singing together reinforces your natural routines, at the same time as giving you extra opportunities to bond through eye contact, touch and smiles. A baby’s world is full of confusing sensations and you can help to calm them by providing reassurance. If you start to associate particular songs with activities, routines or parts of your day, it gives your baby a clear signal that what is happening is familiar, expected and safe. This helps them to feel relaxed and happy – and a happy baby makes your life much easier too.
Is it good for them?
YES! Playful interactions with loved ones are the most powerful way to positively influence your baby. Building a relationship with your baby through music and games can be deeply meaningful as well as educational. Music can have a positive impact that can ripple through the rest of their lives. Singing and moving together is a form of communication that develops your baby’s sense of security and also their understanding of the world. Exposure to meaningful sound (i.e. organised sounds like speech, songs and music) from an early age can have a lifelong positive effect on brain development and the cognitive functions that are needed later for language processing and social interactions. Babies respond to rhythm and tone long before they understand spoken words, and singing with them helps babies to interact before their language abilities have fully developed.
When should I start?
Right away! The period between conception and 2 years old is particularly significant because this is the time that the brain’s neural connections are being established. Even though we are all born with brains that are primed to respond to music and organised sound, it is experiences in early childhood that have an enormous impact on the development of little minds and bodies. We can offer a rich range of everyday experiences that will help our children grow, and singing together is a simple but powerful way to do this.
Singing dads are super dads!
About the Author
Danielle Ballantine-Drake is a specialist early years music teacher with over 20 years of experience working with 0-7yr olds and their parents/carers. She is currently Head of Early Years & Voice at Berkshire Maestros. Check out https://twitter.com/singyourbaby for plenty of easy song ideas. She also has song videos on this playlist: