7 Incredibly Simple Music Activities for Babies

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A mother and her baby babbling to each other - a perfect type of music activity for babies

How do I introduce my baby to music?
7 easy ways to do just that!

These days, you probably already know just how many benefits there are to introducing your child to music. But there is still that lingering question “What kind of music activities for babies are there other than singing?”

Quite often, music courses for babies start with 6 months – and with good reason! Newborns and infants sleep so much in those first few months, sometimes it’s hard to determine their schedule and find a class that fits your needs. And, sometimes, those music activities for babies in a class environment can be overwhelming – especially for little ones. 

But there is absolutely no reason you should wait until your baby is 6 months old to introduce your little one to music. There are a number of ways you can do this, right from the start. And, best of all, they can all be done from the comfort of your own home.

The music activities mentioned below are predominantly for babies up to 6 months. These activities cater to their needs and abilities. But they can also be changed slightly to benefit toddlers, as well. If you are interested in musical activities specifically geared toward toddlers and preschoolers, then read here about 10 ways to engage your toddler or preschooler with music at home

FAQ about babies music activities

(1) “Should I sing to my baby?”

One of the most commonly mentioned (and best!) way of introducing music to your infant is singing. And an equally common question from moms and dads is: “Do I have to sing to my child?”

The short answer: not necessarily.

The long answer: You don’t have to – but you should! Singing is just one of the ways to introduce music to your little one. All by itself, singing provides a number of benefits for your child’s well-being, in addition to their social and mental development.

The reason this singing to your baby has such an impact is not just because of the musical interaction. It’s simply because you are engaging with your child. Regular reading or talking to your baby will give them many of the same social and mental benefits. Any interaction is absolutely essential – music just adds a fun aspect and can help you destress as well. 

But if you honestly feel insecure about your singing, don’t do it. Ultimately, you should enjoy singing to your little one, otherwise you are less likely to continue. Thankfully, there are a number of other ways to introduce your little one to music.

Just in case you are on the fence about this topic, know this: singing is really something that practically anyone can do for their children – even if you think you are a lousy singer. Babies are hardwired to recognize and love your voice. So, I strongly urge you to sing while engaging with your baby. 

(2) When should I start introducing my baby to music?

You can begin introducing your baby to music as soon as they are born, and even during pregnancy. If we consider that we are informally introducing babies to music here (in other words, no lessons or structured classes), then singing or playing appropriate music from the very beginning can only benefit your baby.

In fact, from about the 20th week in your pregnancy, your baby will start to develop their hearing. This means they can hear your heartbeat, your voice, and other sounds. So, technically, you could start singing to them from this point and they will hear you. 

Remember that we are talking about informal music making in the home. As soon as you feel fit, start singing lullabies or simple children’s songs while your child is feeding, when they are fussy, when they are falling asleep. And consider playing varied kinds of music (like those listed below) when they are awake, or even when you are pacing back and forth. 

You could begin with structured lesson plans from about 3 years of age while instrument lessons are best started from about 6 years of age and up.

(3) What types of music activities for babies are best?

The best types of music activities for babies are those that engage them with the music in a variety of ways. The 7 activities listed below do exactly that in various ways. With these activities, you’ll be (1) encouraging music and movement, (2) emphasising rhythms within music and language, (3) actively listening to and engaging with music, and (4) encouraging their language development.

These types are not the only kinds of music activities geared towards babies, but they are an excellent start! So, without further ado, here are 7 incredibly simple music activities for babies. 

A mother illustrates using simple music and movement activity with her baby - an examples of music activity for babies

1. Music and Movement for Babies

Let’s start with a classic! Some think that because babies are generally not mobile before 6 months, there aren’t many music and movement activities you can do with them. So, let’s clarify this just a bit. 

Because your baby is probably not able to sit by themselves or move around yet, just remember to keep the movements simple and gentle. You’ll want to follow their lead – if they are startled by sudden movements then avoid those. If they get a kick out of being held while you dance, then continue that!

 With your infants up to 6 months, just find your groove: sway side to side or rock back and forth while sitting or standing. Your baby will feel the movements through you when you hold them.

Here are some ways to incorporate movement while you both listen to music:

  • Gently sway side to side while standing.
  • Rock back and forth while sitting.
  • Slowly make bicycle motions with their legs while your baby lays on their back.
  • Cradle your baby securely against your chest as you make gentle dance movements. 

The key here is simplicity. The movements you make with your baby should be simple and basic. Just moving to the music is a great beginning!

The benefit here is that your rhythmic movements help your little one learn early about rhythm and patterns. Aa an added bonus, this type of music engagement can sooth your baby – similar to rocking your baby to sleep; particularly if you choose slow, calm song to listen to.

2. Clapping to the music

Typically, babies do not learn to clap themselves until about 9 months.

So, before your child can clap for themselves, you can either clap to the music while they are watching or gently clap their hands for them once they are a bit past the fragile, newborn stage (after about 2 months).

If you don’t want to clap, try these simple activities:

  • Tap their tummies to the music.
  • Once they are past the fragile newborn stage, gently clap their feet together. 
  • During tummy time, use a mix of strokes, finger taps, and pats on their backs in time with the music. 

These types of activities help your child feel the rhythm of the music. You are highlighting that aspect of the music through this type of musical activity.

What is the benefit of this type of music activity for my baby?

By clapping for your child or gently clapping their little hands together, you’ll also be emphasizing beats and rhythms and encouraging their own motor development. The other types of activities listed above help your baby actually feel a rhythm. And the tactile sensation provided by you helps establish a stronger bond between the two of you. 

What’s the difference between beat and rhythm?

Here is one way to think about the different between beat and rhythm. The beat is usually what you tap your foot to while you listen. The beat is a steady pulse, like your heartbeat. The rhythm is made up of various note values (quarter notes, eighth notes, and such). When you sing simple nursery rhyme songs and clap to each syllable, that is your rhythm. 

Some research has indicated that even newborns are aware to beats and rhythmic patterns as they occur in music. Emphasizing both (beats and rhythms) is an important aspect of your child’s musical development. And, these types of exercises can be changed to focus on either the beat or the rhythm. 

Simple Music Activities for babies - A father holds his baby while listening to some music.

3. Simply Sit and Listen to Music.

Now, before you think about how boring this music activity might be, keep reading. Music can be played in the background during the day. But, to sit and focus on a piece of music is important, too! For starters, you are actively listening to the music, not just letting is passively play in the background. Just keep in mind that your baby’s attention span will be quite short in the beginning. 

Second, this helps your child learn to actively listen. And listening is a crucial aspect of music. Actively listening (the opposite of passively hearing) is a great way for your child to learn how to focus on a single thing and learn how music functions.

Once your child becomes mobile, by either crawling or walking, they’ll want to move around. This was a part of the music class I attended with my young daughter and it was always surprising how still the other children got just to listen to a piece of music.

If need be, you can gently sway to the music. But the focus here is to (hopefully) just listen and enjoy. Just know, for some children, sitting still will be difficult. But it can be nice to have just a few moments of relaxing, simple time with your child.

What music is best for babies development?

Start with simple, short, and calming pieces for your baby. It doesn’t have to be classical music either. If you aren’t a fan of classical, then try something that you do enjoy, like jazz, folk, or even popular music. Just find a piece that is simple, repetitive, and with a small number of different instruments.

If you do want to start with classical music, then here are four classical pieces to get you started: 

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach: Prelude No. 1 in C Major
  2. Muzio Clementi: Sonatina in C Major, Op. 36, No. 2 – Andante
  3. Francisco Tarrega, ‘Lagrima’
  4. Peter Tchaikovsky, Children’s Album, Op. 39, No. 1 “Morning Prayer”

All these pieces of music are either solar piano or solo guitar. I’ve selected these pieces specifically because they are not loud, they don’t have surprising elements, and because they are short.

Not sure jazz music can be for babies? Then I’d like to introduce you to the Jazz for Babies albums. These albums are absolutely amazing – I simply can’t promote them enough. Even if you aren’t a fan of jazz, give them a listen. And please consider supporting this award-winning project by purchasing your favorite album. My favorite album is their Music of The Beatles: Volume 1.

4. Use a Scarf while listening to Music.

This is a staple musical activity for infants and one that you’ll find in almost any music class you attend – and with good reason! But you can still use this type of activity with your littlest ones. Thankfully, with this activity, you have a few choices.

If you feel confident enough, you can sing those songs which specifically include movement words. Or, if you are listening to music, you can move the scarf as you see fit to a given piece of music (like a children’s song or even a classical piece).

This video is an excellent example of how to use scarves with music. There are so many possibilities with this song!

If you decide to use an instrumental piece of music (like one of the examples listed in #3 above), then just play with the scarf according to the melody. Some ways of moving the scarf around might include: 

  • Is there a big descent in the melody? Then let the scarf gently fall downward.
  • Is there a repeating part of the melody? Swirl the scarf in circles.
  • Some additional scarf moves include swishing the scarf side to side, or in zig zags; moving the scarf forwards and backwards, holding the corners and moving up and down, hiding the scarf when the piece is finished, or even moving the scarf in wave-like movements. 

It’s up to you but play with it and see what feels right to you. Either way, your baby will have a blast playing with you and seeing the colourful scarf while listening to the music.

And children almost always love having the scarf land on their head and cover their face as if to play peek-a-boo. Read your infants reaction here though – you’ll quickly tell if they don’t want to scarf over their head or face.

If you don’t want to purchase scarves like this, look for similar materials you might already have. They should be lightweight, colourful, and washable. But one of the main reasons that I do suggest you get something like this is that these simple pieces of fabric provide a number of inventive activities for your child – even non-musical activities! 

7 Musical activities that engage your infant with no singing involved!

5. Hum to your baby

This is again one of those musical activities for infants that is self-explanatory. 

Even better, there are plenty of opportunities to hum to your infant throughout the day. Essentially, any opportunity you might sing, just hum a song. Changing a diaper? Hum a song. Feeding your newborn? Hum a song. Letting your little one get some tummy time? You got it – hum some songs!

Because humming is naturally quieter than singing, I often hum when things are not so noisy, like when the little ones are settling into bed for a nap or for the evening. Look for those moments that are calming. 

And did you know that there are numerous health benefits to humming?  These include inducing calmness and even helping to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Now seriously, those are benefits all parents could use from time to time.

6. Engage with your baby in their Baby Babble

Responding to and imitating your infants beginning babbles is one of the most important things you can do to engage with your child. Engaging with your baby’s babble has a number of benefits! Learn more here about the developments of baby babble and tips of engaging them

One way to make this activity a bit more musical is to simply repeat the sound, syllable, or word back to them using a sing-song voice. Simple rises and falls in inflection are a good place to start.

It would sound quite robotic to repeat every syllable and word with the same tone. So, by using slight inflections, small rises and falls when you repeat the syllable or word, this encourages your baby to do the same. 

Even more, once your infant learns a new word, try to think of a song that makes use of that word. Then sing a small portion of the song that uses the word.

For example, if your baby’s first word is “mama” or “papa”, then you could sing “Hush, Little Baby” and emphasize that word. Or, make a simple sentence with the word and emphasize the word when you say it. Then, when you say the sentence, make your voice rise and fall. 

7. Read simple, rhythmic books to your infant.

We often think that reading to little ones begins when they are a bit older, around 9 months or so. But there is no reason to wait – read to them from the very beginning!

Even if they don’t look at the pages or pictures, they hear your voice. And when they hear your voice, they hear the rhythms and patterns of your that language. This is crucial for their own language development.

There are an amazing number of books that emphasize rhythm with their words. But, these 10 rhythmic books are great for all ages! There are even a few for infants. 

If none of these books suit your fancy, then start with nursery rhyme books. Not only are they full of rhymes, they are often intensely  rhythmic. Just think about “Hickory Dickory Dock!”

The key with these books is to emphasize this rhythm. Tap your leg as your read to highlight the patterns, stress those rhyming words. Better still, read them in a sing-song voice! Even the littlest of infants can enjoy and learn from these patterns.

So, my dear readers, there you have 7 simple music activities for babies that you can do all within the comfort of your home.

These music activities are all simple and any parent can do them. And the best thing is that these activities don’t require you to sing. So, if you are insecure about your singing voice, just know that you can still introduce your child to music!

As always, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on how you’ve introduced your baby to music below. Do you regularly use one of these activities?

Happy music making,
Liz

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