Sing A Song of Sixpence: The Importance of Singing to your Child

Mother singing to child on the grass
Category: Bookbug

A recent study found that singing calms babies for longer than talking. By using songs in Turkish, a language that sounds very different from the baby’s native language, researchers found that listening to a performer sing kept the infants calmer than just speaking to them. The speaking voices used in the study were both infant-directed speech and adult-directed speech (when speaking to babies and children, we typically speak differently than we would if we were speaking to another adult. The speech we use with babies and children involves using a wider range of sounds, spoken in a slightly higher voice - it also has a more musical quality to it than speech directed towards adults). Infant-directed speech kept them calm only slightly longer than adult-directed speech, a result that surprised the researchers. This study provides further evidence of the benefits of singing to babies and children.

It’s not formal music tuition, or the playing of Mozart CDs that makes the big difference; it’s the interaction, the shared, playful experience with parent and child

The Bookbug programme encourages all families to spend time singing together, and this new study highlights the importance of that even more. One of the points made in the article is that in Western culture, we’re generally more likely to speak to infants than to sing to them – which means that our children may be missing out on the social emotional benefits of singing.

This research also supports another study which found that music-making activities – and participating in these with a parent – could be a bigger influence in a child’s literacy development than reading. This study was done with toddlers. The article stressed that it’s not formal music tuition, or the playing of Mozart CDs that makes the big difference; it’s the interaction, the shared, playful experience with parent and child. Homemade instruments, making up songs and rhymes, and play - that’s what makes the big difference. These activities lead to parents and children working together, interacting face to face, and creatively working together to solve problems.

Children clapping
Linking both studies together, the results are similar – music is having a profound impact on children’s development. Babies are calmed and soothed, toddlers are engaging in creative play and problem solving. Both articles make a very strong point: it’s not just about listening to music, it’s about the engagement of parents and children.

Families don’t have to consider themselves musical in order to reap the benefits that singing and music making can offer them. Starting early and making it part of everyday life is having a profound impact on children’s social-emotional development, language, literacy and numeracy development.

For more research on the importance of song and music in early years development, check out our blogs on Songs, Rhythm and Rhyme and The Music of Spoons.