Rhythm Sticks

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These easy DIY rhythm sticks lend themselves to so many games, musical and otherwise! To make a few simple pairs, I purchased dowels at the craft store and painted each set a different color. For starters we had blue and purple, but keep adding to your collection for lots of colors if desired.

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Once the paint dried, I showed Veronika a few easy ways to play with them. First I simply encouraged her to tap the sticks while I hummed a song.

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Then I held out one of the sticks from my pair so she could tap against mine. This is almost like rhythm stick Patty Cake.

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We put on music and just played along, of course!

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Then it was fun to challenge her to match color to color. Keep this particular version up as your baby advances to toddlerhood.

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It can also be fun to see how your baby uses the sticks, perhaps in ways you haven’t imagined, and to imitate the moves. Veronika liked rolling hers on the floor…

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…and waving them in the air. So I followed suit!

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We loved this musical interlude together.

Clapping Games

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We took a little pause today for musical and rhythmic fun with the most basic instrument of all – our clapping hands! I sat down and did a simple clapping pattern for Veronika: lap once, clap twice.

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She froze, enthralled, and then almost instantly began trying to copy me. Her “lap” tended to tap on her chest, but I could tell she was trying intently to copy my rhythm.

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I recruited big brother Travis who made up the next pattern. He was proud of his rhythm, involving numerous taps on legs and then clapping.

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Veronika started bouncing with excitement. You could practically see the rhythm in her whole body as we “danced” to our clapping instrument hands.

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We added music to really make it a dance party and continued clapping and bopping in simple patterns. This was such a beautiful pause in an otherwise hectic day. So don’t forget how rhythmic babies are naturally, almost from birth, and get clapping!

Classic Beating on Pots & Pans

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Today I needed to keep Veronika occupied while baking banana bread, so I pulled out an old classic: a kitchen percussion set made from pots and pans.

For novelty, though, I made today’s focus less about the musical element and more about sensory play. I provided her with several different types of baking ware: a saucepan, a muffin tin, and a loaf pan. We started out drumming with bare hands, and I drew her attention to the sound this made.

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Then I set out a variety of implements to be drum sticks, everything from spatulas to wooden spoons to cookie scoops.

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Look for a variety of materials in your kitchen; we had soft silicone, wood, metal, and more. I sat with Veronika and asked her about the different sounds she was hearing. She grinned up at me and tested them all!

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When I showed her how to swirl the whisk in a muffin cup or saucepan, she was an eager mimic.

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You can also make piles and see how this changes the sounds around. If the loaf pan was on top of the muffin pan, it sounded different (more metallic) than when it sat alone on the floor.

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Once our little sensory lesson was done, Veronika kept busy by herself as mommy finished up the banana bread. A win-win!

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Beat to the Rhythm

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No doubt you’ve pulled out pots and pans and Tupperware for your baby already, and discovered that it’s a fantastic way to keep little ones occupied in the kitchen. And while a free-for-all jam session is fun, don’t discount introducing real rhythms at this young an age; kids pick up on it much earlier than you think.

So today, I sat down with Veronika and first we simply banged on our saucepan “drum.” But then I showed her one beat with my hand.

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She banged her hand a few times, but I repeated until she, too, was doing one solitary beat.

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It may have been coincidence, but this worked when I moved up to two beats as well. If I tried for three, it became a free for all of tapping and banging.

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We also tried the game with a spoon, first one beat, then working up to two and three.

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Again, don’t expect your baby to be a maestro, but you’re introducing the idea of beats and rhythms, and your little one gets to have a blast! Big brother wanted to be a demonstrator, too, and loved making one beat with his hand and watching her copy.

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Needless to say, the spoon and pot entertained her so thoroughly that I was able to clean the kitchen undisturbed!

Arrange a Musical Playdate

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Classic children’s songs are so much fun for babies. Parents will likely know the words and motions from their own childhood, making them favorites to pass down (think Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, or Open Shut Them). When you make it a group event, it’s just that much more fun!

Today, Veronika and I joined a group singing at our local library. She was thrilled to receive props like scarves and puppets as we sang to favorites like Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

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This is a great way to see other babies in action, too, playing with instruments and moving around. Our group singalong featured an assortment of rattles and shakers.

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Another fun song for movement is Row Row Row Your Boat. After we rowed our babies’ arms on the classic first verse, the library added some cute new lyrics.

Drive Drive Drive your car (move your baby’s hands like a wheel)…

Chug Chug Chug your train (elbows swinging)…

and

Fly Fly Fly your airplane (arms out)

At home, I made up a few more silly verses. We rowed up a river to see a polar bear shiver, up the stream to see a crocodile and scream, and to the shore to see a lion roar.

You can continue the musical fun long after group time has ended. I’m a Little Teapot is another one that’s great for gross motor movement (and props!).

I’m a little teapot

short and stout

Here is my handle (one hand on hip)

Here is my spout (other arm out straight)

When I get all steamed up

then I shout

Tip me over

and pour me out! (lean over to the side)

The tip gets a giggle very time – mommy is sideways!

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If your library doesn’t have a musical sing-along for you to attend, consider being the host for a musical playdate. Have a few friends over whose babies are about the same age, and scatter all the instruments in the middle. Parents sing while babies bop and shake along!

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Baby’s Song

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There’s a reason educators use songs as teaching tools so often; lyrics are remembered long after spoken words are forgotten, and simply hearing a familiar tune can become a cue when it is consistently attached to a specific activity. Today, Veronika and I focused on specific songs for specific occasions.

You can make these up entirely for your baby as long as you are consistent. We like to use the songs from Baby Signing Time, which helps connect word signs to specific moments. Like mealtime…

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Or playtime…

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Or diaper time, or bedtime, and on and on.

I always sing the same song when she wakes up (Frere Jacques) which helps her understand the day has begun, and it’s no longer night.

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If you make up your own song, try a familiar melody. At bathtime, I always sing the following to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”:

“This is the way we wash your hair

wash your hair

wash your hair.

This is the way we wash your hair

While you take a bath”

Similarly, I have a wordless melody that I hum to Veronika before her morning nap. It works like a charm every time, and I love that we made it up and it’s unique to the two of us.

What musical cues or songs do you use during your baby’s day? Please share in the comments!

 

Young Musician

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Toy pianos are a fantastic instrument for babies who have graduated beyond the most basic noisemakers (like maracas and bells). These first instruments (drums, maracas) give baby an immediate connection between their action and the noise that follows. Pianos are one step more sophisticated; the key makes a noise when pressed, but the mechanism (hammer and string) is unseen.

All that aside, what baby doesn’t love just banging on the keys? Certainly Veronika took right to it! I played a few notes and she came crawling over.

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Her little fingers were soon pounding along.

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For extra fun, this is a good chance to go through a children’s songbook to play simple ditties. You can introduce baby to classics you might have forgotten about, like London Bridge, The Muffin Man, Three Blind Mice and more.

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As I played, she grabbed my fingers and wrists to join in.

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Toy electric keyboards are fun for babies too. Veronika presses every button and loves the way she can vary the sounds.

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Here’s to my little musician!

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Music is Hiding

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Musical toys are a great way to teach babies about object permanence since they can be out of sight but not out of ear shot. Today, I pulled out several of Veronika’s musical toys and music boxes to see if she could find them once hidden. This is a slightly more sophisticated variation on a musical “hide and seek” game we played when she was just an infant. This time around, there’s an added element of enticing your baby to crawl.

She loves music boxes when out in the open.

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I thought for sure she’d go for them right away once I hid the box under a blanket, but little Miss Busy had her attention elsewhere.

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A toy music cube grabbed her attention better. I pretended to crawl around next to her. Where was the music?

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I had to slightly pull back the edge of the blanket before she truly noticed the musical toy.

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But now she’s got it!

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If you repeat this game over and over, you’ll reinforce the idea of object permanence. Later in the afternoon, I hid the music box behind pillows.

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This time she was more interested. She bopped along to the sound and then went looking.

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Ta da!

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You can have so much fun with this one in various ways as your baby continues to grow. Once he or she is really crawling, try hiding the musical toys behind furniture. And during the toddler stage, let them be the hider, and mommy and daddy can go on a music hunt.

Maraca Music

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I’ve made homemade maracas for Veronika before, but today the idea was to see which one she liked best out of a few variations!

I set out three small snack containers. Make sure whichever container you use has a tight-fitting lid, or one that you can tape shut.

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The first received a few scoops of dried beans, the second some dried orzo pasta, and the third a little bit of dried rice.

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Next I presented them to her to shake. Veronika has loved bopping along to music lately, so she loved having a container in her hand to shake, too. Beans were a big hit!

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She seemed to enjoy the subtle sound of the shaking rice when I held it up to her ear.

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Of all of them, the orzo seemed easiest for her to shake and made her preferred sound.

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She also loved when I piled the “maracas” into a tower which she could then knock down, or reach over and pick up a container to shake.

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These made for great solo play while I prepared dinner, too!

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This Is the Way…

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Let’s be honest; taking care of a baby can seem like a series of repetitive steps that you do each day – feeding them, dressing them, bathing them. But don’t forget that everything you do is fascinating for your little one, still. One way to make it fun – not only for Veronika, but also for myself – is to put it to music.

My favorite song to sing as we do daily routines is “This is the Way” (to the tune of Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush. Pretty much anything can fit into this song.

This is the way we take a bath

Take a bath, Take a bath

This is the way we take a bath

Early in the morning

Adapt the lyrics for each thing you do each day!

“This is the way we wash our hands… after having a meal.”

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“This is the way we put on your clothes…early in the morning”

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I also sing the song to her as I go about getting ready for the day, with verses for my shower, for toweling dry, and for getting dresses. You can also enlist baby to be your helper. “This is the way I brush my hair,” I sang to her, and then let her have a turn.

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Musical cues like these can help a baby understand where you are in your daily routine, and also sneaks in language learning.