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Singing with Babies

8 ways to make song a part of your baby’s life.

Singing with Babies

Many babies are attracted to music like moths to a flame. They lock eyes with you, turn your way, crawl if they can, pull themselves up on your guitar and kick with rhythmic glee. Sometimes they are soothed from crying, other times their utterances echo your words. They pay attention, and they are totally engaged with the musical environment you create.

As the music teacher at an infant center in Manhattan who has been singing with preschool kids for more than 10 years, I’ve seen babies who literally live for music. Nothing could have prepared me for the intensity and joy of singing with a group of children under a year, those lying on their backs looking up at me, the children you might ordinarily assume aren’t doing much because they don’t yet speak and they don’t yet sing.

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When you give a child a song, you create an emotional bridge for crossing both ways. You invite the child to be with you, to come closer, and experience the vibrating tone, the face in enjoyment, and the moving body. In turn, they drink you up with their attention and curiosity. They want to know you, your song, and to understand how music works, especially if you come with a guitar.

A recent study by scholars at Oxford University revealed that when people sing together they develop an almost immediate bond. For babies who aren’t yet able to use expressive language, songs can help them get to know their adults and the larger world more deeply. Music is a sure way to touch your baby’s heart and to nourish your unique bond.

Here are 9 ways you can bring song into your baby’s life during the first two years.

  1. Choose songs strategically. A small song might be quiet, slow and short, and possibly accompanied by hand or finger movements. A medium song might involve a book, some bigger movements, more volume. And a big song, is louder, more frolicking in rhythm, faster, and simply captivates all the senses. When singing with children it is important to vary between these types of songs and to read your audience. Don’t sing a fast and loud song to a child who is overstimulated and needs to be calmed or lulled. Introduce a frolicking song to an energetic child who needs to move now!

  1. Pay attention to children’s signals. If the child is not really with you, needs quiet time, or indicates through their body language or utterances that they are done, respect that.

  1. Children benefit from a huge amount of repetition. Infants and toddlers don’t get bored. Hearing the same songs over and over, like reading the same book many times, is a great comfort to children. They learn through repeated exposure.

  1. Props of various kinds can help infants and toddlers focus attention. Your hands are a kind of prop. They can be birds, clap a rhythm, strum in time. Motions that are predictable help ground the infant as they take in new information. Puppets function similarly, especially if you always use a particular puppet when you sing a certain song.

  1. Illustrated songbooks are great for those less comfortable with our singing voices. Books make us feel more confident, and the images are captivating to everyone. With four or five books, you can sustain a musical interaction for a very long time, showing how a passionate engaged infant defies our stereotype of what they can do and for how long.

  1. Don’t judge the audience by their behavior. When sharing music with infants and toddlers, remember that their behavior won’t conform to your notion of a good audience. Depending on their age, development and temperament, they will be more or less quiet, still, interested, etc. They may turn the other way, play with toys, climb on a friend, and they still could be very involved in what you are doing, soaking it all up.

  1. One song can serve many purposes. Infants and toddlers enjoy many of the same songs, though they will enter them, use them and respond to them differently. For example, as you sing and do a finger play to Two Little Blackbirds, a group of babies on their backs may watch your hands and mouth, 15-month-olds might intermittently try out the moves, and those just over two will integrate words, motions, pace etc.

  1. Reaction to music will vary and may come when you least expect it. Just as expressive language presents after so much listening, expressive music will come with time. A toddler who has listened at music time may arrive in the bathtub having memorized every word of every song. Music can be private, intimate, and reveal itself differently in every child.

Music is a sure way to touch your baby’s heart and to nourish your unique bond. Relax and enjoy!

 

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I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

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Parents knowingly sent COVID-positive kids to school—and that's a sign society is failing families

Parents shouldn't feel as though they have no other choice.

Parents across the nation are adjusting to school being back in session during a pandemic. From converting dining rooms into virtual classrooms to totally derailing their careers, parents are finding ways to make it through this unprecedented crisis.

It turns out that there is yet another challenge to overcome: parents knowingly sending their COVID-19 positive children to school. Yes, it happened in Wisconsin this week.

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