I’ve been exposing Harley to music since she was in the womb. No, I didn’t play Mozart at her in utero, but simply made a point to listen to some of my favorite songs every day so that they’d be familiar to her. I’ve continued to play them, albeit less regularly, since she was born. I knew music calmed her from an early age, and really that’s a reason enough to continue with music in her life. However, there’s more to it.
I noticed it when my mom was visiting, singing songs and playing games with Harley. It reminded me of the songs we used to sing growing up, and how music has the unique ability to stick with us. I still know all 50 states in alphabetical order because of a song I learned in what, fourth grade? Songs from my childhood can come on the radio and I still know every single word, even if I haven’t heard it in over a decade. There’s a power to music, and it makes more sense the more you look at it, making me know it’s the best thing I can do for my baby.
Left Brain, Right Brain
They used to say that some people were more left or right brain inclined, either showing creative ability or mathematical and logical prowess. Now, though, it seems to be all about how your brain is wired. The more you do something, the stronger those connections in your brain become. So, much as touch typing eventually becomes natural because you’re following the same patterns of letters over and over again, and the same goes for driving, playing sports, reading or any other activity, the more you do something the easier it becomes. Practice really does make perfect. When it comes to left and right brain interactions, the more activities you can do that combine both side of the brain, the stronger those connections become and the easier it is to use both sides of the brain.
This is where music comes in. Thanks to the rhythm and beat of music, there is a strong mathematical component to it; there are even some arguments that the intervals used to compose melodies rely on specific mathematical patterns. However, there’s also a lyrical and melodic side, which is artistic and creative. So, by listening to music, and eventually singing it herself, Harley is actually activating both sides. Yes, performance is even more beneficial than passive listening, but by bouncing her to the beat, she’s hopefully starting to feel more involved.
Patterns are a big deal. I keep hearing that humans are better at seeing patterns than any AI, that as a result we are able to make sense of our world and universe in unique ways. It’s this ability that sets us apart and helps us excel as a species. However, seeing and identifying patterns isn’t quite an innate ability – it can also be strengthened.
Music is definitely a pattern. With rhythms and choruses and repetition, it’s easy to help a baby learn. In fact, I first saw it when Harley would hang out with my mom. As my mom would start singing, Harley’s eyes would go wide, showing great recognition of what was about to happen. Depending on the song, she’d even smile at specific, predictable points in the music. It is this ability to know what is coming that also will help her notice when something isn’t as usual, detecting mistakes in songs, and eventually noticing when patterns are formed or broken in future aspects of her life.
Those crazy lyrics
I know I’m not the only one who makes up words to nursery rhymes, right? There are some great YouTube videos out there that finally taught me all the words to “the ants go marching”, but it’s still fun to change things up sometimes. The ants went marching four by four? The little one stopped to shut the door, or was it lay on the floor, or perhaps be a bore?
Even without making up lyrics, think about the diversity of words used in all those fun songs we like to sing to our tiny ones? In the car, if Harley is upset I usually sing to her “you are my sunshine” or that classic blues number, “summertime”. There are a whole bunch of words in both songs that Harley might not hear on a regular basis otherwise, but she will (hopefully) know and understand thanks to all our singing.
Calming and Bonding
Harley simply loves music. It calms her down and makes her happy. Plus, I love the way she interacts with me when I sing to her. We can do “the itsy, bitsy spider” over and over again and have so much fun – plus that one helps her with eye tracking with all the hand movements. She smiles and melts my heart, making me want to just keep singing for her. It makes her relaxed and fun to be around, and helps our relationship grow. A happy baby bonding with her mommy? What more reason do you really need?
I don’t know if there are any set rules to making my little one a genius. Will this help her read down the line, or play a musical instrument, or grow up to be a rocket scientist? I don’t know. But it’s a great way to engage with her, stimulate her little brain and have fun in the process. And remember, it doesn’t even matter if you can’t carry a tune to save your life – your baby already knows and loves YOUR voice, so sing it loud and sing it proud. It’s worth it for that giant grin you’ll get in return.