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By J. Jean Robertson

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Soothing and settling Lulling a baby to sleep with singing is an age-old part of child care. More than just calming, many mothers report that they sing to their babies in a particular kind of way in order to settle, to help them unwind as a preparation for sleep or for other activities. One mother said she sometimes sings her particular lullaby ‘oh, a hundred times over, it’s a kind of meditation, I suppose’ (Spencer, 2000). By this she shows how, in the first months, the parent has an important role in managing the baby’s emotions.

And equipment is available which repeatedly plays natural sounds such as running streams, waves and the wind in forest trees. These sounds can be useful, particularly as background, but are a poor substitute for infantdirected singing and human contact. Lullabies Listen to the tree bear Crying in the night, Crying for his mammy In the pale moonlight. What will his mammy do When she hears him cry? She’ll tuck him in a cocoa pod And sing a lullaby. (Traditional African, in Foster and Thompson, 1996:27) Trehub and Schellenberg (1993) researched the use and characteristics of traditional lullabies sung to babies and young children.

Whether among family members or other primary caregivers, playing musically with babies and young children can help adults to be playful in ways which are appropriate to the babies’ current priorities and to have affectionate fun together. What I hope to have captured in the brief descriptions above is the intimacy of these exchanges—small moments of caring for the emotional well-being of the babies. There is some evidence that babies and toddlers who are enrolled in daycare with more responsive caregivers are likely to have better cognitive and language development and to be more competent socially (Goldschmied and Jackson, 1994).

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A Look at Impressionist Art by J. Jean Robertson

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