Your Brilliant Baby in Week 26: Differentiating Lullabies & Play-Songs
What your infant learns this week
Baby’s Brain around Week 26
You find yourself humming “Rock-a-Bye Baby” at naptime and bedtime—but what would happen if you took these moments to start singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”? Would your baby behave any differently? Scientists say yes: Lullabies and play-songs (sometimes called fingerplays) affect Baby in very different ways. Here’s how.
What the Research Shows
Researchers recorded mothers singing a song in a lullaby-style and a play-song-style to their six-month-old babies:
- Play-song-style renditions were rated as being more brilliant, clipped, and rhythmic, and as having more smiling and more prominent consonants: “One-two-buc-kle-my-shoe….”
- Lullaby-style renditions were characterized as being more airy, smooth, and soothing: “Luuuullabyyyyyye … and goodniiiiight….”
Adults observed the videotapes (without sound) of the babies listening to alternating lullaby-style and play-song-style songs and were able to determine—at above-chance levels—which music the infants were hearing.
Researchers determined that six-month-old babies respond to lullabies by turning their attention toward themselves and playing with their hands or sucking their thumbs. In contrast, they display externally directed responses to play-songs and behave in ways that seem to encourage adults to continue singing by bouncing, kicking, and looking intently at the person singing—that’d be you.
This ability to discriminate song type likely comes from your child’s capacity to recognize the emotional characteristics of a piece of music. Incredibly, this aspect of musical perception appears to be inborn!
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