I know, it doesn’t seem like something that an early childhood music teacher would say, especially one who plays violin! BUT, studies have shown that babies learn more from live interaction with their caregivers over a recording (imagine that!). A cappella singing (without instruments) allows baby to focus on a single sound at a time. Think about books that were designed for infants: they are simple, have clean lines and bold colors so that infants can learn to decipher the images and put them into context (this is a dog, this is a story about body parts, etc.) By singing a cappella, you are simplifying and breaking down the sounds of language into a format in which your baby can more easily relate. I would compare listening to a Mozart symphony as the equivalent of showing an infant the Sistine Chapel. It definitely doesn’t hurt, but it’s probably not going to help much either, since your baby is not actively involved.
A great way to start experimenting with sounds is with animal sounds. Look into your baby’s eyes and say “moo.” Point at your mouth and repeat “moo.” Point at baby’s mouth and repeat “moo.” If you have a picture of a cow, show the picture and say “moo.” Learn the sign language for COW, do the sign and repeat “moo.” Now sing Old McDonald (slowly and with intent!). Bounce your baby or tap their body on the verse, and then stop bouncing/tapping on “EIEIO” and using the sign language for COW when it comes up in the song. Pause and see if your baby reacts. Do this a few (dozen) times, signing MORE each time before you sing it again (you can sign it, or move baby’s hands to help them learn the sign.) After your baby seems to *get the pattern, sing the verse again while bouncing/tapping, then stop everything on “EIEIO” and see what happens. Most likely your baby will smile, look at you, kick their legs, or move their arms, or maybe even try to say moo or make some other vocal sounds to let you know they are learning. This process is breaking down music & language into smaller chunks that your baby can understand and process. Your baby is anticipating when you will say “moo,” when you will bounce/tap or stop. Next, try singing it totally wrong and see what your baby does! Repeat with other animals.
You can go turn the Mozart back on now…just don’t have it be the ONLY music education that you and your baby get!
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Jessica Solares is one of the founders of Bucktown Music, along with her husband Luis. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Elmhurst College, and is a licensed Kindermusik educator with Top Program distinction.