Parents looking into Mom and Baby or early childhood activities have several choices these days. Swimming, gymnastics, social and free play groups, music, or babywearing dance programs abound, so why choose a program like Intellidance®? The answer is simple: we are literally born to dance and sing!
Babies and Music
Babies develop their sense of hearing by around 24 weeks in utero. Just like infants are able to recognize voices and books read to them before they were born, they can also recognize and be calmed by familiar music. Hearing the same songs in the big open world as their parents/caregivers sang to them in the womb often calms newborns. Children as young as two will begin to develop a musical taste profile based on the music they hear around them
Babies also have the ability to pick up on tiny musical details in much the same way they learn speech patterns natural to their caregiver’s native tongue(s). With repeated exposure to music they are able to identify and encode rhythmic patterns, chord progressions, and irregularities. Just like language, the more your child is exposed to music – and the more types of music they are exposed to – the better they will understand and be able to use the rules and structure of the musical genres they are exposed to. Babies learning to talk will naturally explore the musicality of their voices, playing with pitch (oooAAAaaah) and rhythm (grrrr, agaga-gaga-a) while they imitate what they hear. Infants who hear more music display more musical vocal exploration. Even the smallest amount of musical training can forever change the brain.
Music and the Brain
So what happens in the brain when we listen to music? Music requires almost every known area of the brain, from the auditory receptors and processors to the hippocampus (memory) to motor, visual, and sensory cortexes to the Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas (which are part of the language processing centres) to the amygdala and other areas associated with emotion.
Music and the Caregiver/Baby Bond
Music is so engrained in our brains and cultures that mothers everywhere have sung to their babies for as long as we can remember. Babies are able to recognize the unique sound of their mother’s voice, the soothing repetition of music of music heard in the womb, and engage the most primal of their brain structures. Most lullubies will follow a similar musical pattern, making even new ones familiar, and the elongated breathing pattern slows down mama’s breathing and heart rate, causing a similar relaxation in her baby.
The sing-song like way mother’s tend to speak to their infants (motherese) will also grab the child’s attention and redirect it within their environment.
Singing with or to your child also releases a cocktail of neurochemicals known to build trust, increase mood, and relax in both parties: melatonin, nor-epinephrine and epinephrine, serotonin, oxitocin, dopamine and prolactin. These chemicals and the bond they create between a caregiver and child help to form the basis of a secure attachment, needed for healthy social and emotional development. The types of interactions in a parented music and dance class are based on responding to your child’s movements, vocalizations, and needs. This response-based play can help set the stage for a responsive relationship between the child and their caregiver.
A recent study out of McMaster University followed two groups of infants in weekly music lessons between 6 months and 1 year. The group who participated in interactive music classes where they played and sang along with their parents not only showed much higher understanding of musical structure and pitch, but also better pre-verbal communication skills, social skills, and self or assisted regulation skills such as soothing easier and being more relaxed in unfamiliar or distressing environments.
Caregiver Mental Health
The oxytocin burst that occurs when we sing together in groups creates positive bond between caregivers and their babies, but also between the caregivers themselves. “To a neutral observer, synchronized dance appears to be the result of a close relationship between the participants. To the participants themselves, although it may not begin this way, it typically ends up engendering strong feelings of sympathy, caring and affection.”(Levitan, D, 2008) These types of relationships, where we can seek and provide support with others who have shared our experiences, are incredibly important for caregivers of young children. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety can be helped by having a community of people (including qualified medical professionals if needed) to help lighten your load and make the first years a bit less lonely. Many moms and dads have come to class (as have I) slightly disheveled and very late because the class helps them get out of the house and provides the “village” many caregivers crave.
With so many benefits, it is clear why Intellidance® is an award winning program!
I grew up in a household steeped in dance and music. I started highland dancing at the age of 3 and competed until the age of 24. Bagpiping went hand-in-hand with my dance career and from the age of 7 I lived, breathed and worked for dance and music. I have taught music, dance, and music leadership training programs for 10 years to students in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northwestern Ontario, and created and ran a music training curriculum to assist young instructors to acheive their goals of teaching by running a school of music under qualified music teachers. With Deaf Culture and Language and Special Needs Education Assistant Certificates, I have worked with a variety of pre-school and school-aged children and am excited to bring Intellidance™ to the Winnipeg area!