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12 Musical Activities for Babies, Infants & Toddlers

Music in our Homeschool Part 1

This month on the blog, we’ll be sharing tons of free resources celebrating The Month of the Young Child. To kick things off, we’re looking at lots of tips and tricks for facilitating music at home with the newest member of the Prodigies family, Lillian Scout Young.

Lil Scout is only 4 months old, but we’ve already got tons of musical routines and activities we do around the house. Have a look around!

1. Resonator Bells

For starters, we love us some Resonator Bells. Usually I’ll hold her in my lap and sing some slow and soft songs of all kinds. Pop tunes, lullabies, Solfege, arepeggios, Beatles, that JT song from Trolls…you know, the hits! The lower octave and warmer sound are easy on the ears and I can play it easily one handed while I hold her.

2. Deskbells for Babies? Definitely (but with supervision)!

Of course, the Deskbells are big around our home. I set up Lil with the E and G during playtime for lots of easy Sol Mi exposure. She smacks them, kicks them, ocassionally throws them, and she also watches as I play and sing with them.

I sing a lot of my favorite songs, a sing a lot about the colors and the numbers, and of course I sing a lot of nursery rhymes, lullabies and kids songs!

They’re not specifically designed for babies, so don’t let you little ones wield them unsupervised! They’re also a little loud, so either cover them with a thin blanket or play them softly.

3. Diaper Changing Deskbells

Lil’s most consistent musical routine is at her changing table. We have a G/c/C trio set up (shown above) that we play quietely and in that order (G,c, C) when we’re done changing her. Usually we sing a “Yay” on High C when we’re done.

This might seem like a weird place for some musical play, but it’s really pretty ideal. For one, changing Lil’s diapers is one of the only thing that’s consistent around here these days. That, and laundry.

Furthermore, babies tend to be pretty happy on the changing table ad it’s not a bad place to sneak in some fun time. Just make sure to play the bells softly, as they’re pretty close to your babies ears. To reduce the volume even more, cover the bells with a thin blanket.

4. High Information Music

We also use an app called NURYL to give Lil exposure to lots of High Information Music. The folks from NURYL have shown some pretty remarkable benefits as a result of playing babies (2nd trimester through the 1st year) this type of music, and their app NURYL contains curated playlists and original compositions that make this is a no-brainer.

You can try NURYL for free, or you can also YouTube “High Information Music” for some free playlists and suggested listening. Some of the music might seem a little dark and intense for your baby, and you can feel free to skip those if you’d like (but don’t skip too much!).

5. World Music & Genre Exposure

Besides High Information Music, it’s worth exposing your baby to all kinds of genres and styles of music. My wife and I listen to a wide range of everything for ourselves, but we spend some extra time mixing in music from other cultures that we might not listen to as much. For some fun starting points, try North Indian Sitar, Gamelan Gongs, Kodo Drumming, and Tuvian Throat Chants.

With the Internet, you have the entire worlds worth of music at your fingertips, and many of us spend too much time in one genre or style of music. I am super guilty of listening to the same thing over and over, but take some time with your baby to listen to some things that are a bit more outside the box so your baby can grow up to appreciate and understand more complex music.

6. Instrumental Versions of Your Favorite Songs

Of course, every baby and every family has their favorite band. Above is Lil doing her best Page McConnell impression.

There are lots of lullaby CDs and collections on Spotify and YouTube and all over the web. There are also the Pickin’ On Series, which are bluegrass versions of popular music.

Most of these lullaby like tracks are lyric-less, so that make great late night karaoke for you and your partner to help sing your baby to sleep. Baby gets to listen to mommy and daddy and parents get to work on their karaoke game. As background music, they’re a bit easier on the stimulus level for sleeping babies!

7. Reading!!!

Even though reading isn’t specifically musical, you can’t talk about early childhood activities and not talking about reading. Even at 3 months old, babies will enjoy you reading to them!

You can, of course make it more musical if you’re feeling sing-songy yourself, but that’s not easy for everyone and not the main point of reading to kids. Most children’s books (Dr. Suess especially) are sing-songy in their own right. Plus, the patterns of language and cadence of sentences are musical in their own right. And of course, basic literacy is a crucial skill for college ready toddlers. #kiddingnotkidding

8. Dancing, Finger Play and Classic Music and Movement Activities

We also do a lot of bouncing and dancing to music in the morning. My computer and speakers are just out of frame to the left, but usually when Lil wakes up, I’ll hold her and we’ll wake up slow to coffee, Vampire Weekend and some team e-mails.

If you’re not familiar with the classic finger songs, parachute games and bouncing songs that are used in lots of mommy and me type classes, it’s definitely worth looking for a class near you. You don’t need to enroll yourself forever, but learning those song and games for early tummy time and early music and movement is a fun and positive experience for babies and parents alike.

In the picture above, I’m pretty sure I was getting Lil to play a pretty sweet Low Tom and Snare pattern along with the new Rostam album, but the mornings are kind of running together at this point! We do a fair amount of parachute play with her blankets and lots and lots of peekaboo. Not musical really, but we definitely make some funny sounds as we go!

9. Arm Flailing Piano Music (or a floor drum, bongo, etc)

Lil even rocks the piano…sometimes. At 4 months old, she’s really starting to look at things, reach out for them, and grab them. But most of the time, when something is in reach, it’s more of an arm swatting frenzy than it is a deliberate move. That’s where the piano comes in.

Honestly, some bongos or a big round floor drum soon would be better for at this age. The drum sound is more consistent and predictable. Still, the piano is fun for now and she’ll ocassionally press just one key, which is nice!

10. Playing Other Instruments for Your Baby

I also spend a fair amount of time playing the guitar, the bells or the piano for Lil. Usually about 30 minutes after waking up, when I’ve had a bit of water and coffee and she’s okay with me putting her down for a bit, I’ll bust out the guitar and play a couple tunes while she rocks along in her swing.

She also gets a kick out of the recorder! I’m not very good at the recorder, but I can play a enough songs and silly trills to keep her entertained. And of course, I play a lot of the Deskbells, and she smiles and whips her head around pretty consistently when someone plays the bells.

This might be more fun for me than for her, but she definitely laughs, coos along and kicks her feet like she’s having a good time, so it works for us!

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Someone told me that at 6 months old, we’d really start to see some deliberate responses, some talking and some interactions from Lil. But here, at only 2 months, it feels like we already get so much of that. Granted, I think it’s more that I started speaking baby more than she started speaking English, but we’ve already got some routines, some patterns and lots of little back and forths going that make it feel like we’re actually hanging out and talking. A lot of people talk about the birth as this epic moment of meeting your child and falling in love, and while that’s obviously true and momentous in its own right, the realness and routine of these past couple definitely feels more tangible and concrete than the surreal experience of the birth. At first it felt like, wow okay so we created this kid here we go, but now, with a couple weeks of routines and growing, it’s like, hey check us out we’re a real family all hanging out and doing stuff!! Seems kind of obvious but the difference is huge. Final note – changing your kids diaper is always talked about as this awful experience when really, it’s the total opposite. Now, granted, I don’t have a sense of smell (#anosmiac) so that helps, but Lil is always alert, happy to get naked and even more happy to get wrapped back up. So many of our laughs, jokes and routines have centered around changing her diaper. And with us not bottle feeding, I was worried about not having that experience of getting close to Lil via feeding, but honestly, she’s wayyyyy more fun on the changing table than she is sucking down some milk and I haven’t given the not-feeding-her a second thought!!

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11. Babble Conversations

Before we had Lil, I thought I might be able to avoid speaking baby around Lil and try to speak like a normal person. How wrong I was!

Lil basically cracks up at all kinds of funny sounds, so we spend a lot of playtime having babble filled conversations! Her little coos have turned into more complex stirrings of babble and we tend to crack each other up pretty often. Sleep deprivation helps.

(*fb lil babble)

12. Introducing New Sounds

We also expose Lil to lots of sound effects, whether it’s silly babble from us, or the sounds of paper being ripped, she loves learning about new sounds. The classic paper rip trick is shown in the video above which she belly laughs with the best of them!!

Exposing your baby to new sounds is fun and an easy win when you’re trying to come up with infant activities around the house. Lil tends to startle pretty easily, and then crack up a second or two later. Obviously, startle your baby at your own risk, but don’t be afraid to try some weird or exciting sounds!