Singing and dancing are instincts. All humans — and many animals — respond to music. In fact, you probably started singing to your child soon after she was born because the sound of your voice was instantly soothing to her. You also may have noticed that your baby responds to different types of music with movement or nodding or even trying to sing.

While it's perfectly fine to play your own music for your baby, you might want to try finding music created specifically for children, as the particular sounds are often more pleasant for young ears (higher notes and less complicated tunes). Also, as they get a little older, children will become more aware of the words to the songs. Children often have trouble distinguishing the words in grown-up songs and will find the simple thoughts in kids' music more engaging.

Creating Music

Even at the age of one, your child can bang a drum, shake bells, and hit a xylophone or press buttons that make noises. You should encourage this activity with your child. It is an early way for him to experience cause and effect, as well as enjoy the process of making music. One great, inexpensive instrument for young children is the Egg, an egg-shaped toy with little beads inside that makes a rattling noise when you shake it. These cost around $1 and young children love to shake them.

If you want, you can also make your own instruments. Children can bang on pots and they can ring any type of bell. You can also put beans in a coffee can with a removable plastic lid and have your child shake it. If you have an old instrument in your house, such as a guitar or violin, that you don't mind getting slightly damaged, keep it on the floor so your child can explore it. Don't expect a one-year-old to “play” anything, though. If you can, let your one-year-old play with the instrument incorrectly, too, so that he doesn't feel intimidated or uncomfortable but rather feels confident and enjoys the experience.

Ways to Use Music

Turning on music for a baby is wonderfully stimulating — and sometimes soothing — for him. Just as you put on different music to match your moods, you should remember that loud music will keep him awake while gentle music will help him fall asleep.

Here's a great trick. When you're trying to change your wriggly baby's diaper, start to sing. Pick a new song each time or stick to an old favorite (see the list in Appendix B); chances are your baby will relax and start to sing with you. One-year-olds love to sing. Teach her the A-B-C song, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “She'll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” or even the chorus to your rock and roll favorites (“Yellow Submarine” is a good one). She'll get a smile on her face in no time.

Whether you choose to play games, sing songs, read together, or participate in all of these activities, spending time with your one-year-old is the most important thing you can do to ensure that you will raise a happy and healthy child. The journey from twelve to twenty-four months has its challenging moments, but for an involved and engaged parent it will be a very special time that is more about giggles and hugs, fun and play than almost anything else. There is nothing quite like having a toddler in the house. They are so excited by the smallest things in life, like bugs, a cookie, dancing, their blanket, and, most especially, you — the person who loves them and takes care of them. The gift of your time and interest will be rewarded each time they look at you with love and trust.

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