Babies are naturally drawn to music. It’s why mothers everywhere have sung lullabies since the dawn of time, why so many baby toys play songs (though not necessarily your favorites), and why there are so many adorable viral videos of toddlers cutting a rug online.
Here are a few more things you should know about music for babies:
- The repetition of lyrics in nursery rhymes is good for language skills.
- Hand motions boost fine motor skills.
- Lullabies soothe and lull little ones to sleep.
- Fast-paced, rhythmic songs get little ones up and moving.
What’s more, almost any mainstream music you like, from children’s songs to classical to contemporary rock, is worth testing. As long as your cutie enjoys it, it’s baby friendly.See Also: The Hidden Power of Music
To boost your playlist, try these ideas.
- Classic lullabies. Hearing develops well before eyesight. That’s one of the reasons babies stop crying simply at the sound of Mama’s voice. A sweet lullaby, sung by Mommy or Daddy is, well, music to a baby’s ears. Even if you can’t croon along with the best of ’em, try singing one of these while rocking your baby to sleep: “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” “Hush Little Baby,” or find more here.
- Nursery faves. Research indicates that words set to music help babies learn words more readily. And this is where nursery rhymes come in. Sing them to your little one during tummy time, to hold his interest during diaper changes, on a car ride, or any other time you think a diversion will work. Try leaving off the last words or line of a song to inspire older babies. Before you know it, your little crooner may finish it all by herself. Get started with old standards, including “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
- High-minded greats. The soothing sounds of classical tunes can calm a cranky baby, and—who knows?—they may inspire her to become a fan later in life. Soft, classical sounds are great for background music; they won’t distract the way faster-paced tunes can. Sample classical, or even opera. Consider Handel’s Water Music, Brahms’s “Lullaby,” or Mozart’s Piano Sonata no. 12.
- All about me. We love tunes that help teach kids body parts, how to move arms and legs, and yes, how to follow directions too. Gestures are a precursor to learning spoken language. Studies have shown that the faster a child grasps gestures, the earlier she is likely to speak. Check out tunes with accompanying movements, including “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and “Wheels on the Bus.” Kids adore them.
- Surprise endings. You’re guaranteed to get a squeal of glee when you sing songs with a twist. Sure, some are silly, but isn’t that what music is all about? To entertain your tot and share a giggle, cue up chart-toppers such as: “Pop Goes the Weasel,” “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” and “Ring Around the Rosie” (because, of course, we all fall down!).
- One-hit (animal) wonders. Kids love animal themes, and they love music too, so combine the two and you have a winner. Don’t be surprised to see baby bopping up and down to a playlist that includes “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Baby Beluga,” “The Ants Go Marching,” “Three Blind Mice,” and “The Farmer in the Dell.”
- Old reliables. You can’t celebrate abirthday, a national holiday, the start of baseball season, and more without crooning a few tunes your own parents taught you. Happily, there’s a baby-friendly song for just about every season and occasion, so your options are endless. Get started with “A Bushel and a Peck” for Valentine’s Day, “Yankee Doodle” for Memorial Day or July Fourth, and “Casper the Friendly Ghost” for Halloween.
- Weather songs. There are few better ways to teach your child weather words (and make the concept stick) than by putting the words to music. Match your tunes to the conditions outdoors and the clothes your child is wearing. Here’s your chance to step up to the mike with your own rendition of “Here Comes the Sun,” “Let it Snow,” “Rain, Rain, Go Away,” and “Mr. Sun.”
- Reggae and country. With their highly distinctive regional sounds, these two genres top the list of favorites for hip beat-driven members of the two-and-under set. Dig up recordings from your own go-to list of stars or sample sounds from Bob Marley, Dolly Parton, and Darius Rucker.
- Pop and rock music. While these may not seem like a logical choice for young listeners, chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by your tot’s happy reaction to music you love to hear. Dance, shake, and jiggle together while you’re at it. Babies who move rhythmically to music smile more and are more adventurous than those who simply listen. Cue up Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, and Bruno Mars.