Engage your baby with music and help their speech

April 26, 2017

Engage your baby with music and help their speech

When my sister Sally's daughter Maya was around four, they used to play a game where they would talk to each other without using words.

They used to hum out the words or phrases they wanted to say. The sound was kind of halfway between talking and singing, with the emphasis on the qualities of the sounds rather than the words themselves.

It was amazing how they understood each other most of the time. Give it a try, it's fun and you might be surprised at how well you can communicate!

So how did Maya understand what Sally saying without using words?

Babies and young children use different types of musical information to learn speech, like:

 Timbre: the quality of a sound that makes it different from other sounds
Pitch: how high or low a sound is
Dynamic stress: the emphasis of a sound to make it stronger or louder
Rhythm: the pattern of the sound

These characteristics of sounds are so vital for understanding speech that Maya was able to understand the 'words' Sally was saying. And it's these characteristics that make listening to music, singing and playing musical instruments so good for developing language skills.

Scientists have done studies to show that listening to music can help children with their language development, all based around the idea that music emphasises the pitch, timbre, and tempo of everyday speech. Anthony Brandt, Professor of Theory and Music Composition at the Shepherd School of Music, said in an interview with the Medical News Today, that it is the sounds of language, not the meaning of it, that infants first learn. He said that newborns can differentiate pitch, timbre and rhythm and therefore exposure to music trains babies' brains for understanding language and learning to speak.

Spoken language is a special type of music and developmentally, music comes first and language arises from music.

Anthony Brandt, Associate Professor of Composition at the Shepherd School of Music.


Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds of words and over time, their meaning. It helps them to remember words so they can build up their vocabulary. And it teaches children how language is put together.

Listening to music also makes children feel happy and relaxed, which means their brains are in the optimum state for learning.

Research carried out by scientists from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences  (I-LABS) found that 9 month old babies who participated in a series of play sessions involving music, were better at processing music and new speech sounds than babies who had played with toys but no music. “Our study is the first in young babies to suggest that experiencing a rhythmic pattern in music can also improve the ability to detect and make predictions about rhythmic patterns in speech,” said lead author Christina Zhao, a post-doctoral researcher at I-LABS. “This means that early, engaging musical experiences can have a more global effect on cognitive skills.”

Co-author Patricia Khul said “this research reminds us that the effects of engaging in music go beyond music itself. Music experience has the potential to boost broader cognitive skills that enhance children’s abilities to detect, expect and react quickly to patterns in the world, which is highly relevant in today’s complex world.”

Listening to music, singing, tapping out rhythms, playing musical instruments and dancing to music are all wonderful bonding experiences you can have with your little one. If you make music an everyday experience for your child, you'll also be helping their development in so many ways.

Jane Loukes, singer at My happy Songs.


Our songs have been specially developed by an Early Years teacher, designed to promote early learning educational outcomes. 

My-happy-songs-cdAll of our songs are personalised with your child's name to help engage them and increase self esteem.

Click here to listen to our songs now.

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