For many adults (myself included), music brings joy and helps us escape stress; however, the effect music has on young children is often far greater than what adults experience. As adults bob their heads and smile while enjoying music, the toddlers around them jump and dance – music literally moves them!
Just as music can bring children to their feet to dance, music has an incredible ability to soothe them. Here are some ways to channel the power of music into everyday occurrences to make life a little easier and a lot more fun for you and your child.
Singing a lullaby while your child is in your arms or even next to you in a crib or car seat is a special time for both of you. When singing a lullaby, all other thoughts tend to disappear, leaving nothing to focus on but you, your child and the song you’re sharing. In that safe place, the stress a child may feel regarding sleep can be replaced with a sense of calm and love. Remember that musical accuracy is not important to your baby – it’s the sound of your voice that is so powerfully soothing.
For an example of the incredible power of a lullaby, check out The Lullaby Project. Started at Carnegie Hall, The Lullaby Project brings the bonding power of lullabies to moms in challenging situations by guiding them through the process of writing their own lullaby for their children. The effect is truly beautiful and powerful.
Transitioning from one activity to another, or even moving between rooms, can be difficult for some children. Music is a great way to redirect your child’s focus, making it easier for her to transition away from the prior activity or location. To help children move from one place to another, try singing songs about moving or jumping. Don’t hesitate to change the words of any of your favorite songs to fit the situation.
Changing diapers, brushing teeth, putting away toys – these tasks all go better with music. The best songs to sing while doing chores are often the ones we make up ourselves. Remember that no one is judging you, so be creative and silly as you come up with your own songs to make routines a little more fun.
Traveling can trigger tantrums and cause “are we there yet?”-induced anxiety for parents and children alike. Your child’s favorite music is a must-have on any trip.
In addition to the applications above, research indicates that music might reduce stress by encouraging social development. In one study, the researchers found that 14-month-old toddlers who were gently bounced to the beat of music were more likely to be cooperative and helpful immediately afterward than toddlers who were bounced out of sync with the beat.
Another study from the New York Academy of Sciences found that infants who participated in interactive music classes for six months showed less distress in unusual situations, smiled more and communicated better than infants who listened to music but didn’t participate in a class.
We like to say that all children are musical. Tap into that musical power to connect with your child and help him through challenging times. Almost any music will work, so whether it’s turning on the radio or simply using your voice, use music to bring calm and peace to the lives of you and your child.