Whether it’s a popular nursery rhyme, a soothing lullaby, or the complete works of Napalm Death, many of us instinctively sing to our young children because young children instinctively seem to love it. The sound of dad singing can leave babies transfixed.
We naturally sing to our new born babies because it seems a natural thing to do. Singing can be calming, comforting or giggle-inducing, depending on the circumstances. It also helps that they don’t give a monkeys if we can’t hold a tune. I sang to both my children when they were little, and yet many adults would argue that I have a voice that curdles milk.
Singing to children is good for everyone
Babies aren’t critics, but a new study suggests that older children are. The survey found that 36% of the children asked said that dads are at their most embarrassing when they decide to sing in the car.
We can perhaps take this finding – from a car insurance company – with a pinch of salt. More authoritative sources say that singing to (and with) your children is a wonderful thing for dads to do.
We sing to babies and toddlers because we instinctively know that they like it. Instinct has now been backed up by science. A study by Great Ormond Street Hospital found that babies and young children experienced lower heart rates, less anxiety and felt less pain when their parents sang them lullabies. The music was key. Simply reading to the children did not have the same effect. Though reading to children is, of course, fantastic in other ways.
Singing to your child is good for them, and it also helps their development. According to Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and author of The Genius of Natural Childhood, parents should sing to their children every day to help their language development.
Singing to babies is, she writes, “an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing. Song is a special type of speech.”
“Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the ‘signature’ melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child’s ear, voice and brain for language.”
So singing to very young children is good for them and good for their development of language. And as they get older, singing with them is just as important.
When children sing, good things happen
Sing Up, a not for profit organisation that promotes the benefits of singing for children, states: “Academic research consistently reports increased confidence and improved learning outcomes as a direct result of singing regularly. Other benefits include improved self-esteem, increased enjoyment in school life, deeper engagement in class and enhanced social skills.”
And guess what, dads get benefits too. According to Professor Graham Welch, Chair of Music Education at the Institute of Education:
- Physical benefits – it increases oxygenation in the blood stream and exercises major muscle groups in the upper body.
- Psychological benefits – it reduces stress levels through the action of the endocrine system, which is linked to our sense of emotional well-being.
So whether it’s Baa Baa Black Sheep or the best of Black Sabbath, singing to babies – and singing with children – is good for everyone.
So what are you waiting for? Deep breath and…