Parenthood. The virtues of parenting one another with unconditional support and care are to be celebrated! Caring for infants involves leading by example and providing the necessary care to provide a good life for them.
I learned from my own mother one of the best lessons about bonding with my children musically. She doesn’t have a music degree. In fact, I already had the music degree and the certification to practice music therapy before I had children. Yet, just a few short days after having my first child, I learned something they don’t teach in a classroom. I knew that music is an important factor in bonding so, at her birth, I sang “Jesus Loves Me” while she was laying on my chest for the first time. I’ll never forget how wide-eyed she was in that moment. But, after we took Lucy home, I was a bit overwhelmed. I had held babies before but not 24/7. I didn’t know how to fill the time between feedings, sleeping, and diaper changes. Then, one morning a few days after Lucy was born, my mother sat down on the couch with Lucy, leaned Lucy on her (my mother’s) propped up knees to get face to face with her, and began to sing “The Wheels on the Bus” while stretching Lucy’s arms back and forth to do the motions for her. My mom said to her, “You need to do your exercises” and proceeded to sing other songs while continuing to gently play out the motions with Lucy’s arms and legs. After all my education, I was being taught how to musically play with my own baby by the wise mother in my life.
Infants learn with their whole bodies and with all of their senses; developmental psychologist Jean Piaget characterized this as “sensorimotor” learning. Infants are also thought to not yet fully differentiate themselves from their caregivers (Winnicott, 1986); they likely consider their grownups as an extension of themselves. Thus, nestled in the lap of an adult who is moving rhythmically, the baby is in an optimal position to take in beat information through both her senses and her body, as well as to experience what it’s like to move to the beat. In addition, an adult who is the role of “baby mover” may be more comfortable moving to the beat, because she is doing so for her child. As the baby grows out of infancy, an adult who began as an “uncomfortable mover” may become more at ease with moving and dancing without needing to be holding a child. (Guilmartin and Levinowitz, 2012).
After my mother’s lesson, I sang many other songs with motions and Lucy facing me. It also encouraged her eye contact with me. Sometimes, I incorporated a rattle or bright baby toy and moved it slowly back and forth over her face to help develop her eye tracking. I sang or read simple board books and turned them to face her so she could look at the pictures and strengthen her sight and focus her attention. I came to cherish those first few months of musical play time with my daughter. The truth is, she was colicky and cried a lot the first three months. Yet, when I sang to her in this fashion she was calm and engaged. This was an important technique to have in my “mommy” bag of tricks.
What musical techniques are in your bag of tricks for supporting children musically? Feel free to leave a comment on the In Harmony Music of Middle Tennessee Facebook Page!
In my next post, I’ll blog about another infant-music bonding technique that I used when my children were infants.
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