Classical music for your baby
There’s been loads of research on the benefits of classical music for babies.
Many claims have been made about increased IQ levels and enhanced attention span. But research benefits aside, there are other great reasons to introduce your kids to the classics…
The main reason to introduce your Tot to different types of music is your own personal sanity. The Wiggles are adorable but… picture yourself in four years after listening to their music all day, every day. You will be a frazzled and wild-eyed – possibly bald – nervous wreck. The other reason you might like to play classical music for your baby has nothing at all to do with short-term memory or IQ levels or auditory processing. Classical music is fun! Seriously. For a sense of grandeur and occasion – nothing beats an orchestra. These pieces will hopefully inspire your child, spark their imagination and encourage movement. Even if you don’t know the names of these pieces, you’ll probably be familiar with the melodies!
There’s no set regimen for how or when you should introduce your baby to music – some babies are more receptive to different and interesting sounds, while others find any noise over-stimulating, so use your instincts. We recommend playing music in the background as a regular part of your day, in the car or when you are nursing or giving baby a meal. You don’t need to make your baby concentrate on the music, babies learn a lot merely through exposure. (Classical music is great for mom’s mood too – so when you are feeling tired use something with a strong beat to pep you up, or something soothing and calm to relax you during a stressful day!)
Try playing the big, bold, upbeat pieces in the background when your baby is feeling energetic and the quieter melodies when your baby is more relaxed or in a quieter mood. If your baby seems startled or upset by the music, turn it down or off. Research has shown that babies start to hear in the womb at about 23 weeks – mostly the sounds of their mother (your heartbeat, your voice, your digestion!) which are very loud. You can try attaching headphones to your belly for the baby, though some research recommends against this as some babies in utero do not like loud noise (ever notice your baby turn suddenly as you walked past a noisy building site?) and the environment in the womb is fairly noisy already. In fact, researchers speculate that the constant noise of the womb is the reason some babies settle in an environment of white noise – be it a white noise machine, the vacuum or the rhythmic slosh of the washing machine!
1. Peter and the Wolf- Sergei Prokofiev
Prokofiev was commissioned to write a composition especially for children in 1936. The piece takes the form of a story told by a narrator, accompanied by an orchestra. Each character has a musical instrument and a theme. (The Wolf, for example, is the French horn.)
2. Twelve Variations on ‘Ah vous dirai-je, Maman’ – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Your little one will probably be familiar with “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. This lighthearted piano composition by Mozart takes the form of 12, increasingly complex, variations on that melody.
3. William Tell Overture (finale) – Gioachino Rossini
You may or may not wish to hear the much-parodied finale of the William Tell Overture again, but imagine hearing this thrilling, galloping, finale for the first time! Your little one will have great fun with this rousing tune.
4. The Planets (Jupiter) Gustav Holst
This is the fourth movement within a seven-movement suite. Each movement is named after a planet in the Solar System. The Planets suite has inspired many Hollywood film scores and is the perfect soundtrack to a grand adventure.
5. Carnival of the Animals (The Swan) by Camille Saint-Saëns.
For something much more gentle: Carnival of the Animals is a musical suite of 14 movements, with each movement representing a different animal. The Swan – a soothing and exquisite cello piece – is the most famous movement.
6. Jazz Suite, Waltz no 2 – Dmitri Shostakovich
For something a little darker – you might remember this piece from Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut but it doesn’t necessarily need to be quite that dark! Waltzes are great fun for kids and this is a particularly fabulous one. Pick up your Tot and sweep her around the room, imagining you’re in a glorious ballroom.