Is your baby's Music Group really worth it?
This complete guide to baby music groups aims to support and educate your decision making. There are so many music groups for babies out there today, surely they’re all pretty much the same, aren’t they? How can you tell what you’re getting when you sign up? Do you know what to look out for to make sure that your session facilitator or teacher knows what they’re doing, or that there will be actual music played in the session (you’d be surprised)? How can you ensure you’re getting value for money? And how do you know your baby is actually benefiting from being there?
In this complete guide we’ll aim to answer those questions and explain why we, the small family run business behind Little Harts Music are so passionate about engaging babies and little ones with real, live music and song. We’ll also explain why having a qualified Music Therapist involved is so important to us. As well as how she enables us to provide evidence based information and music designed specifically to support your child’s development. This blog will also explain the importance of music to encourage a secure attachment and ensure you have a safe and supported matresence and journey into parenthood.
We are Jon and Sarah Hart. We’re the co-creators of Little Harts Music and husband & wife duo “Sabai”. We’ve both been musicians for as long as we can remember. Sarah and Jon both began playing instruments at infant school, an activity which is now deemed a “luxury” and not essential learning… But that’s for another blog… We believe that learning an instrument is actually vital for children’s education: not just their academic development, but also their social, emotional and personal wellness as well.
We actually met while we were both studying Music at Southampton University. After graduation Jon continued gigging, hosting live music events and began teaching guitar and Sarah, after a year working with children with autism (ASD), began studying for her MA in Music Therapy. Following her qualification, a geographical and emotional move and a few years later, the birth of our first child, that spurred us to create Little Hart’s Music.
So what's unique about LHM?
Once we began attending baby groups with our own little one we soon realised that although well intentioned, often the only music babies were hearing in session was recorded (played on CD’s / iPads etc). Or it was being sung by motivated and thoughtful, but untrained group leaders who sang the same nursery rhymes over and over every week, often in monotone with no expression or musical melody! Considering our own introductions to music and our professional musicianship we felt compelled to do something about it.
We felt strongly that something was missing from the first introduction to music that this new generation was experiencing. We agreed that infants should have access to real music and be able to hear a range of instruments and music from early on. The research backs up our theory and you can read more about development through music in this publication by professional musician and specialist in early childhood music studies MA Nicola Burke. So we set about setting up Little Harts Music in our local area. Two and a half years later and we are now facilitating online sessions (and outside of the Covid-19 pandemic multiple weekly face to face sessions in the Redhill and Merstham area), we have one album released full of original songs and nursery rhymes, and another on the way, as well as engaging in an interactive and motivating online community via social media.
Why Therapeutic Music? What's important about that?
The UK training to be a HCPC Registered Music Therapist is two years postgraduate study and a minimum of two clinical placements. Trainees must engage in their own therapeutic process as well as study units on child psychology, normal child development and psychodynamic theory. The MA qualification enables one to practise as an allied health professional in the UK, working alongside multidisciplinary teams within hospitals, schools, hospices, neonatal units, dementia care and with a wide range of client groups. The therapeutic work is confidential and requires musical expertise as well as a grounding and depth of knowledge in psychodynamic theory. Music Therapists carry out continuing professional development throughout their careers and are always expanding and deepening their knowledge.
Although therapeutic music for little ones is not the same as clinical Music Therapy there are a multitude of overlaps. Sarah felt strongly, having this knowledge and expertise in using music in this way and then experiencing first hand her own child’s normal development, that there was a place for such a group. This complete guide for baby music groups was born from this thought.
The Evidence for what we do.
Our own experience of music groups for babies increased our drive to create something effective for babies and toddlers. Not forgetting their parents: often fed up of the same nursery rhymes and unimaginative “play”, as well as needing their own space to settle into life as a new mum or dad. Though music has an impressive number of educational benefits, with babies this isn’t really the focus. Babies are so new to the world, they really need time in the safety of their mum or dad’s arms, to begin to understand themselves and other people, before beginning to manage social interactions or copy and follow a rhythm!
As child psychoanalysts Dr Winnicott and John Bowlby tell us a baby’s early interactions with others, particularly the primary caregiver, are crucial not only for physical survival but also for developing a sense of self, and mastery of the world around them. These factors are central to laying the foundations for future social and emotional development.
Of course early exposure to live music will enhance a number of educational benefits; including acceleration of literacy skills, language acquisition and mathematical learning too. But we believe the early stages of a baby’s life should be about nurturing the mother and baby dyad, ensuring mum feels supported enough, from her partner, her own family and friends around her, to enable her baby to grow and develop safely and securely. Music can play a key role in creating and sustaining a secure attachment for parent and baby, which is vital for infant mental health and ongoing development, and this is something we aim to facilitate in our sessions.
Music for security, play and brain development.
The songs sung in our sessions are written with specific aims in mind. For the babies the music is really about enhancing the quality of interaction between parent and baby: encouraging plenty of face to face singing and physical interaction, as well and supporting baby to develop their self-awareness: how their body can move, what different movements feel like in their developing sensory systems. Sarah always encourages mums to sing, as whether they like their singing voice or not, baby loves it! It is one of the first sounds they recognise and it brings them comfort in an otherwise confusing world.
Despite this maybe feeling a little out of your comfort zone the Little Hart’s sessions really are safe places in which you can be with your baby in your own way, safe in the knowledge that it is a non-judgemental space where you can feel supported to do what is right for you and your baby.
For our toddlers we do start to bring in more play based songs, actions, and exploring the different elements of music which is where you will clearly see the educational benefits of this type of engagement. More on this to come in another blog soon…
So, if you’re looking for evidenced based research around music for little ones, if you want a safe place to come each week with your new baby, or toddler, if you’re a musician who wants to get your baby’s musical life started, if you enjoy singing and want to sing with other parents, if you hate singing and just want to listen to others, why not come along to one of our sessions? We are currently online meaning we are available for sessions across the globe!
And if live singing isn’t your thing why not listen to our album or stream some of our music on spotify / amazon music etc. Thanks for reading.