Baby Babble and Learning to Sing

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Welcome, dear readers! I am thrilled to bring you this guest post from Cherie, the brains behind Music Time Kid. She has crafted this informative article on how to approach your baby’s babble. You’ll find helpful tips on what to expect for your baby’s babbling milestones, what baby babble actually is, and how you can engage your baby to sing!

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

Guest Post: Baby Babble and Learning to Sing

Babies’ first sounds… cooing, ba, da, ma are all at the beginning of vocal development and speech development. These are the building blocks for baby babble and speech. Because singing is putting a musical sound to speech, it is easy to help a baby find their singing voice as they begin babbling. Let’s discover how you can help your baby learn to sing when they begin babbling!

How does baby babble encourage language development?

Short sounds like ba, da, and ma are the beginnings of language development. Babies generally start making these sounds by 6 months old. Parents can imitate baby babbling sounds and sing little melodies using these syllables. Interacting with your baby builds confidence and eventually babies begin to string these syllables together.

Babies love the sound of music. Singing simple songs with short nonsense syllables encourages baby babble and also encourages singing. It’s really amazing how a baby’s coo is actually a singing vocalization. And babies can learn to imitate melodies in their first year.

There are many additional resources for parents who want to find out more on this topic. Here is a short podcast that talks about baby babble and why it’s so important (the text version can be read here). But there are other resources to if you want to learn more about baby babble, like┬áthis short article about baby babble from the Hanen Institute.

Parents might feel silly babbling with their baby or singing songs using babbling sounds. But this kind of communication is necessary for speech development and will help your baby learn to speak their first words. Simple words like ba eventually becomes real words!

What is baby babble?

Babies start cooing and making gurgling sounds between the ages 4-6 months old. As they begin to find their voice, they begin to make sounds that are short little one syllable sounds. Sounds like ma, pa, ba, da, gi are the beginning of language development and what we call baby babble.

The vowel sound “ah” and “oo” are common babbling vowel sounds. The consonant sounds m,b,p are produced with the lips and often are the easiest sounds for baby to make. Consonant sound d is made with the tongue so it is a little harder. But some babies will say da-da first while others say ma-ma. It really depends on the child!

Eventually the child begins to string these syllables together. This is the beginning of baby babble and how speech is developed.

At first, babies start making sounds that are not associated with objects or people. They are just making sounds. But eventually sounds start to have meaning. Every child is unique, but there are stages of development that you can encourage and watch for.

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

What are babbling milestones by months of age?

I want to stress this very important fact… every child is unique. Each child will reach milestones at their own pace. Speech development varies greatly and so you should not measure your child’s intelligence or abilities by how quickly they begin to make sounds, begin babbling, or develop their speech. Every baby develops at their own pace. And if you notice that your child is significantly delayed, you can talk about this with your pediatrician. Early hearing problems can be identified by understanding the approximate babbling milestones and what to watch for.

Six to Eight Weeks Old

Within baby’s first six to eight weeks of age, he or she will begin to coo and gurgle. Besides crying, this is baby’s first step in language development. Cooing sounds usually have a singsong or musical quality to them and this is the milestone for vocal development

4 Months Old

By 4 months old, babies begin to giggle and laugh. Laughing is usually a response. You may be making silly faces, singing, or it may be something that just tickles their funny bone.

6-9 Months Old

Baby babbling generally begins in this stage. Sounds like ma, ba, pa, and da are spoken. These are not recognizable words, but the foundation syllables for making words. Eventually the syllables become strung together and understandable speech will begin to emerge.

Babies can begin to imitate your singsong voice and produce a singing quality when encouraged. Singing produces a fun and positive feeling and babies are very attracted to music. Speaking to your baby in a singsong voice will encourage your baby to develop their singing voice.

12 Months Old

Many parents look forward to the 12 months age as they listen for baby’s first word. But remember… this is an average. Babies may say their first word when they are between the ages of 10-15 months old. Some children speak early and others develop language skills later. Every child is different!

Babies are beginning to understand language and what you are saying to them, but it is still difficult for them to talk to you. Talking to baby is essential as they begin to try to imitate you and speak words. When you talk to your baby, ask questions and encourage them to say sounds as a reply. Continue to use a sing song voice and you will be surprised at how babies are also developing their singing voice! You may even discover some of baby’s favorite songs and melodies by this age.

First Words

Every parent looks forward to hearing their baby’s first word. What will it be? Often a baby’s first word will be mama because it is the easiest word for babies to produce. But sometimes babies discover how to make the “d” consonant sound and the first word becomes dada. Whatever your baby’s first word is, remember it may not be perfect, but your baby is trying to communicate with you!

What are some first words?

Normally, from 5 months of age baby will say his first word. Babies will also try to say words spoken by their parents or someone else in the vicinity. It is important to remember that the first words spoken won’t be perfect. Sometimes consonants are easier to make your toddler say mama rather than dad’ s first name this is because the ‘m’ sound produced by lips is easier. Also the words may not be perfect or even refer directly to the item itself.

“My friend can’t talk, but I can still understand her.” Willow, age 8

Recently I was talking to my granddaughter and she was telling me about a playdate she went to. The house they were visiting has a couple of kids that the mom provides childcare for. My granddaughter loves to play with the little one year old girl. She told me that her little friend couldn’t talk but she could still understand her. I asked her more about this and she said she was singing a song, “One, two, buckle my shoe,” and the little child could say “shoe.” And when she sang, “Three, four shut the door,” the little girl would say “door.” I was amazed that an 8 year old would recognize that this little baby could indeed communicate even though she was just learning to speak.

Baby Babble - A mother sings a lullaby to her infant using babble words

Why should I sing babbling words to my baby?

I encourage parents to sing babbling sounds to their baby because children will mimic what they hear. When they hear the sound of a syllable going up or down in pitch, they will try to copy it. This doesn’t happen instantaneously, but over time, children learn to find their singing voice. It’s surprising to many when kids can actually sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Itsy Bitsy Spider melody even when they don’t know all of the words.

When you sing to your baby, make eye contact and stop often to see if your child will respond to you and produce something that sounds like what you just sang. Because singing is so engaging, singing strengthens the parent-child bond and helps build an association between words and objects.

Remember, language development and singing is not a race. Parents should continue to be encouraging. And their child will progress at their own pace!

How can I encourage my baby to sing?

There are several ways for you to encourage your baby to develop their singing voice as they begin babbling. Singing is simply putting a musical sound to language. So speech and singing (putting a musical sound to speech) can develop hand-in-hand. Let’s discover ways that you can encourage singing with babbling.

Sing responses

When your child is babbling, instead of speaking back to your child, respond by singing it. Anytime you can talk to your child, you can use a singsong voice. It’s fun to get silly with babbling. Use an expressive face, nodding head movements, and make silly shapes with your mouth! Your little one will engage with you and realize that babbling is fun!

Imitate them

Babies often have a singsong voice and when you imitate them, it is very encouraging for them to continue babbling. Hearing your response stimulates their desire to continue to communicate with you. Before you know it you will have had an entire conversation of baby babbling!

Sing Songs

Whether you sing familiar children’s songs or use a melody from a childhood song and make up your own words, singing songs to your baby will help them develop their own language and singing skills. You do not have to be a good singer for your baby to benefit. Baby’s love and desire to have your full attention is enough to produce amazing results.

Use babble “words” in place of words to tunes like “Hot Cross Buns” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Singing to one syllable words encourages children to learn a melody without worrying about the language. This is a very helpful tip for developing a singing voice and was something I didn’t learn about until my babies were older.

Sing songs while you are doing regular daily activities. For examples, you can sing counting songs and count on toes and fingers when you change a diaper. Songs with actions may make getting buckled into the car or taking a bath an easier task. Or singing some seasonal songs like these autumn songs as you take adventures outdoors.

Listen to Music

Listening to music has many benefits. If you listen to good children’s music, you will find songs that become your child’s favorite songs. These are the songs that your child will love to learn to sing. Language development really soars when a child is invested in the music they listen to. So take time to create different playlists of music. Music for bedtime, music for dancing, music for relaxing to, music with silly words, etc.

You will discover which songs your baby loves the most. Learn these songs and sing them over and over and over! These are the songs that will help your baby’s language and singing development.

Baby Babble and Learning to Sing Youtube Video

Conclusion

Singing and learning to speak are both a part of vocal development. From the very first cooing and gurgling sounds a baby makes, singing can be encouraged. With some intentional focus, parents can model a singsong vocal quality at every milestone stage. And even without any musical training at all, parents can help their child find their singing voice!

Cherie from Music Time Kid Guest Post

Music Time Kid

Cherie Norquay, a mom of five, grandma to four, and long-time music teacher is the creator of Music Time Kid, a blog and Youtube channel that supports parents and teachers of young children. Cherie believes everyone can infuse their home with the joy of music and that kids can learn practically everything through music. She loves to help parents discover how easy it is to teach music to their own kids. Check out the free resources and teaching tutorials on her website and Youtube Channel.

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