Creating Beautiful Days with Your Baby
by Dr. Lyn Ransom
I’ve found that music helps me have a truly beautiful day with my four-month-old grandson Jackson. Creating beautiful days may not be this easy when he’s two, but right now I love our song-filled days. Here are a few ideas that you might enjoy trying with your own child or grandchild.
In morning play time, I love to sing conversations. Since Jackson can’t do much with his hands yet, a song conversation is endlessly entertaining for him. And I like it, too. I can move his favorite toys around to the beat, or pick him up and spin around—then sing back and forth some more. Now, at four months, when he’s really gurgling, squealing, and cooing, he often goes to the 5th note above his crying note, especially after I sing a song. Tip: Sing, then wait, sing, then wait—give the baby ample time to organize and coordinate a way to sing back to you.
I play the Music Together CD when I change his diaper, singing along now and again. When the CD is on, he listens, so his very active body lies more still, making the change easier. He responds differently when I sing than when the CD plays by itself. He especially perks up when the rhythm patterns come on and I imitate them. It seems like he enjoys the differences between songs, rhythmic chants, and the short rhythm patterns—at least he shows me that he is aware of changes. I find this simply fascinating! How sophisticated his hearing is already, and how much he must be absorbing and cataloguing every day!
Make up a song for your child. Use your baby’s name and repeat it a few times. See if you can create a simple song with a tune, or a rap song. Imagine how much your child will love hearing you sing his or her song. Jackson’s begins “Jackson Dan, Dan, Jackson Dan, Dan, Dan,” and works to an easy rock ‘n’ roll beat.
Sing during your stroller walk. I’m exploring a new town, and I love being outdoors, so we walk downtown and have a coffee date. I enjoy an espresso, holding his hand or holding him. Jackson enjoys the different sights and sounds, especially the coffee grinders and the rich-sounding bell on the door. (I think he likes the bell because his eyes intensified, his eyebrows knit and he looked pleased.) Yesterday I met a four-month-old Blake from California and his grandmother, as well as a young mom with five-week-old Conner. I sing or chant as I walk—Jackson loves it, and the other folks don’t seem to mind.
During fussy hours, usually late afternoon, I head for the rocking chair and sing something like “One Little Owl” or the “Left-handed Lullaby” (see blog) in time with the way I rock. If he breaks out crying or howling, I howl along and then go into a song. I try to sing it on the same pitch as his cry—sometimes this shock of recognition can be enough to stop the crying.
I sing the same lullaby each day, and after he falls asleep I keep singing it as I move him to his crib. Jackson’s mom told me he likes to have his face rubbed, so I place my hand on his cheek as I sing, and keep it there as I put him in his crib. Once his body relaxes—I watch for his arms to go limp, I pull my hand away, but keep singing as I leave the room and head for a cup of coffee (or a nap).
Have the courage to sing in public places. Last weekend, at a big family graduation party, everyone wanted to hold Jackson. By the afternoon when we were in a restaurant, he was really tired. His mother let me hold him, so I took him to a quiet corner and sang the “Left-handed Lullaby” (see blog) with my hand on his cheek. Soon he was asleep, and I was happy.
As Jackson gets older, making music may not always be as easy as singing a “Left-handed Lullaby” (see the May 2010 Experts Blog post), but for now I am happy to enjoy such simple musical days with him. I am sure there are many parents and grandparents out there who also have funny and fascinating musical stories to share about their babies’ earliest musical moments. Please post them to our blog so we can hear about them!