Music has a way of reaching everyone in different ways. As a music educator and entrepreneur Jenny Johnston (pictured above) explained, "the benefits of introducing music to your baby are endless". Jenny is the founder of Do-Re-Mi & My Baby, a parent and child music class located in Oakville, Ontario. She has an extensive musical background, and recently she has enjoyed using this knowledge and experience to introduce babies and their parents to the joys and wonders of music.
Ever since the memorable moment of performing in her Grade 5 musical, Jenny knew that she wanted to pursue music in her life. She joined a local choir, pursued music education in high school, and completed a degree in Vocal Performance from the University of Toronto. Jenny coupled this degree with a Bachelor of Education and enjoyed seven years of teaching elementary music education at St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School, a prominent independent school in Oakville, before starting her own family.
Once on maternity leave with her first child in 2016, it wasn't long before Jenny was passing along her love of music to her son, Brady. Her fellow mom friends would remark at how talented she was at fostering that love of music in her own baby, and they were soon asking her to help them teach their own babies about music. Thus, Do-Re-Mi & My Baby was born, and Jenny continues to share her love of music with other parents and babies.
When asked what were the benefits of introducing music to your baby, Jenny had many ideas to share. Here are some of the top benefits of introducing music to your little one.
10 Music strengthens cognitive and sensory development
Music is a multi-sensory experience, and we don't often realize that. We don't just hear music, we feel it, we experience it. Through exposure to music, babies strengthen their cognitive and sensory development, and this is very beneficial. They learn to recognize familiar tunes, and babies as young as 7-months old can detect different beats in a song.
Music strengthens cognitive development by encouraging memory use and thought processes. As Jenny explains, "music engages all five senses", and through frequent exposure to music, babies develop stronger sensory connections.
9 Music can be applied to any activity
We all know what it's like trying to keep a baby still through a messy diaper change. It can be next to impossible, as they wiggle and squirm while you do everything in your power to prevent poop from getting everywhere. Sing a little song, and all of a sudden, your squirmy baby is transfixed on you, listening intently to the song that you are singing. It buys you the time you need to get that diaper change finished!
Music can be incorporated into any activity, and it can help both parents and baby to feel more relaxed through activities that are perhaps a bit more stressful, like those diaper changes! Singing a little song during feeding time can help to calm your baby and help them to focus on eating, and we all know the benefits of singing a gentle lullaby at bedtime to help your baby drift off to sleep. As Jenny mentioned, "it is a wonderful way to build happy routines and establish a strong connection with your child."
8 Music can help to develop language skills
Music has a certain repetitive, rhythmic nature to it, and this can be very intriguing and comforting to infants, as they hear a familiar song and learn to recognize the tune and even the lyrics. As they get older, this recognition of lyrics can help them to develop their early language skills. Through music, babies and toddlers become familiar with rhyming words and auditory nuances, and they acquire new words through different songs that they hear regularly.
Diane Bales, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Georgia, in Athens, explains that when we put words to music, babies are more inclined to remember the words, just like how we sometimes create a little jingle to help us remember something new that we learned. (Source)
7 Babies who are sung to get better sleep
Many parents sing to their baby to help them fall asleep, but did you know that singing to your baby can also help them to stay asleep longer and to sleep more soundly? There is nothing more comforting to an infant than the sound of your voice, so singing them a quiet song at bedtime has a similar effect that meditation has on us.
It lowers blood pressure, calms the brain, and readies the body for sleep. It doesn't matter what song you sing or whether you think you are a "good" singer or not, your baby loves your voice, and falling asleep to your gentle singing help them to enter a deeper, more peaceful sleep. So, sing away!
6 Music can be a tool to help toddlers express themselves
As babies and toddlers are exposed to different forms of music, they learn to identify the different tones and nuances in various songs. They can recognize happy, upbeat music and how it sounds different than stronger, angrier music. By exposing your baby to a variety of classical pieces that are emotional, babies learn to differentiate between these emotions.
As they get older and are still acquiring their language skills, music can help them to identify and express their own emotions more easily, as they have that understanding and recognition already. This brings toddlers some comfort, as they learn to navigate strong emotions and find ways to express them. So, throughout those terrible twos, keep that music playing!
5 Music can trigger memory
We all have those songs that can trigger a strong memory, perhaps one that we hadn't thought of in a long time. You could be driving along, and an old familiar song comes on the radio, and instantly you're brought back to a favorite childhood memory. It is remarkable how music can trigger these sorts of memories. It is no different with babies and music.
If there is a particular song that you sing to your baby regularly, they learn to recognize that song and associate whatever emotion is linked to it. If it is a happy, peaceful song that you sing to them when it's bedtime, then whenever you begin to sing it, it will trigger that memory and they will know it is time to rest. This use of memory in music also helps to further develop your baby's cognitive abilities.
4 Music can improve mathematical learning
Music, in all its forms, is quite mathematical in nature. There are patterns to a song, and mathematical reasoning is often required when reading music in order to play an instrument. Certain sounds in music can also be processed by different parts of the brain, sometimes the left hemisphere over the right hemisphere, and this can create a stronger balance within the brain. Even Einstein was known to sit and listen to music while trying to figure out a difficult mathematical problem!
An innovative program in California has even begun using rhythm to help teach fractions to elementary students, incorporating the mathematical component of musical rhythm in a way that students can understand. By utilizing music in their math program, and playing music during math tests, teachers have seen an increase of up to 40% in their students' scores.
3 Music helps to develop fine motor skills and coordination
Learning to move along to music is beneficial for babies in many ways. Identifying the rhythm of a song and moving accordingly helps to develop a child's fine-motor skills, as they learn to differentiate between various rhythms. Playing an instrument is also a great contributor to developing fine-motor skills, so allowing your baby to play with age-appropriate instruments from a young age can help them in the long run.
Moving along to music helps to build a baby's coordination, as they learn how their bodies move, and how they can make them move in reaction to different songs. Moving with someone to music can also trigger the release of oxytocin, known as the "bonding hormone", the same hormone that is released during nursing. So, put on your favorite song and dance along with your baby. It is scientifically proven that they will love it!
2 Music-making may help to improve neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to form synaptic connections, and it is these connections in the brain that help to develop memory and skills. Music-making may help to strengthen neuroplasticity in the brain in the areas that are dedicated to processing sound, sensation, movement, and attention.
This means, by introducing music and music-making to your baby at an early age, they may have an easier time processing different sounds, paying attention to those sounds, and thus developing their language skills. By being actively involved in music-making, rather than just passively listening to it, babies are more inclined to develop these skills, as well as further enhancing their language and social development.
1 It Can Help Post Partum Depression
Postpartum depression is a very real condition that many new mothers experience. As Jenny explained, postpartum depression "is something I've suffered with after having both my children, so Do-Re-Mi & My Baby is as much for parents as it is for babies and toddlers. I strive to create an environment in class where moms can meet each other and build their own mom-squad who live close to them and have similar aged kids. Maternity leave is a special time, but it can be so isolating for moms who spend hours alone with their baby all day trying to navigate motherhood alone. Classes like this build community that can truly be the saving grace for new parents."
Jenny is an inspiration to many moms, with her musical talent, her ability to connect to babies and toddlers in such a fun way, and her strength and courage to turn her passion into freelance work, allowing her to be at home with her children. If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and are looking for a music class for you and your baby, be sure to check out Do-Re-Mi & My Baby. If you don't live in that area, search around for a similar class near you, and explore all the wonders of introducing music to your baby!